| Eckert worked as the co-chair of the Voice of Sept. 11, an advocacy group that pushed for wider investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks, NBC affiliate WNBC reported.|
A widow of a victim of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center was among those killed in a plane crash near Buffalo, N.Y., late Thursday, her sister told a local newspaper.
Published: February 13, 2009
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says the deadly plane crash in upstate New York reminds the nation of the fragility of life and the value of each day.
Speaking at an event at the White House, Obama said Friday that his prayers are with families and friends who lost loved ones. A Continental commuter plane crashed into a house in suburban Buffalo on Thursday night, killing all 49 people aboard and a person in the home.
One of the victims was Beverly Eckert, a Sept. 11 widow. She was just at the White House last week with Obama as part of a meeting he had with relatives of those killed in the 2001 attacks and the bombing of the USS Cole.
Obama said Eckert was an inspiration to him and he hopes her family finds comfort in the days ahead.
A member of the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 commission, Beverly Eckert, 53, wants "something constructive" to come from the death of her husband, Sean Rooney, in the World Trade Center. After urging Congress to form an investigative commission, Eckert (pictured at a ground zero vigil last week) is now championing intelligence reform legislation that stalled in the House after key Republicans wanted more provisions: no driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, to name one.
Why is there an impasse?
People forget this is a bill about terrorism. You could put countless things in this bill and make a connection to our safety. We need to go one step at a time--and start by reforming the intelligence community. I want to deny terrorists driver's licenses, too, but I want to do that later.
Are you angry with House Republicans?
I'm angry with their leaders. The families left a note for Speaker [of the House Dennis] Hastert [last week] and reminded him he promised us in person that a bill would be on the president's desk before Election Day. Our message discussed the difference between democracy and tyranny--tyranny being the arbitrary use of power by a few, which is what we felt happened on November 30 when Hastert prevented the bill from going to the floor. There were enough votes to pass it.
What would you say to President Bush?
It's not enough to talk about your support at press conferences in other countries. Come to Congress and make a statement. Show us who is really in charge in this country.
Are Americans tired of hearing from the 9/11 widows?
I'm sure people are sick of us, but we don't have a choice. We need a safer government, safer buildings.
How are you holding up?
If I knew that [after] three years we would still be waiting for intelligence reform, I don't know if I would have signed up. My life feels like that movie Groundhog Day; I'm constantly getting out of a cab in front of the Rayburn House Office Building, trying to get something done. -Angie C. Marek
This story appears in the December 13, 2004 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.
|9/11 Activist Who Sued Government Killed In Buffalo Plane Crash|
February 13, 2009
Widow of Trade Center victim refused to be silenced after attacks
Friday, Feb 13th, 2009
One of the passengers aboard the plane that crashed into a house 10 miles from Buffalo, New York, airport late on Thursday was a 9/11 widow who had questioned the official account of the attacks, sued the government and consistently lobbied for an Investigative Commission.
 Beverly Eckert was flying to the city for a celebration of what would have been her husband Sean Rooney’s 58th birthday, reports the  Press Association. Mr Rooney died on the 98th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower.
She was among the 44 passengers and four crew on board the Continental Connection flight operated by Colgan Air when it crashed in the Buffalo suburb of Clarence Center.
After 9/11, Ms Eckert refused to accept a cash settlement as compensation and instead sued the government.
“I am suing because unlike other investigative avenues… my lawsuit requires all testimony be given under oath and fully uses powers to compel evidence.” Eckert wrote in December 2003 in a statement entitled  My Silence Cannot Be Bought.
“The victims’ fund was not created in a spirit of compassion.… Lawmakers capped the liability of the airlines at the behest of lobbyists who descended on Washington while the September 11 fires still smoldered.” she wrote.
Other September 11 relatives who accepted settlements forfeited their right to sue the airlines, airports, security companies, or other US organizations that could have been faulted for negligence and inadequate security measures. This ensured that very little detail of the attacks emerged outside of the government appointed 9/11 Commission.
In the same statement Ms Eckert also wrote:
“I want to know what went so wrong with our intelligence and security systems that a band of religious fanatics was able to turn four U.S. passenger jets into an enemy force, attack our cities and kill 3,000 civilians with terrifying ease. I want to know why two 110-story skyscrapers collapsed in less than two hours and why escape and rescue options were so limited.”
As a co-founder of the steering committee group “ Voices For Sept. 11” Ms Eckert joined other activists in pushing for an Investigative Commission.
Only because of the consistent efforts of the relatives groups were the deaths of more than 2800 Americans ever formally investigated by a government who would have rather kept the truth about 9/11 buried.
In 2004 the Ms Eckert also successfully lobbied Congress to pass a sweeping  reform of the U.S. intelligence system.
Last week, Ms Eckert was at the White House to talk with President Barack Obama about how the new administration could deal with terror suspects.
According to reports, the Colgan Air flight was on final approach to Buffalo airport, 5 miles from the runway, when the control tower lost all contact. Weather was reported as light snow and fog and a 17 MPH wind. There was no radio message indicating a problem, so whatever happened happened in an instant. Only one house on the ground was destroyed, so the aircraft was on a nearly vertical path when it hit.
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|Beverly Eckert |
My Silence Cannot Be Bought
USA Today - Friday, December 19, 2003
I've chosen to go to court rather than accept a payoff from the 9/11 victims compensation fund. Instead, I want to know what went so wrong with our intelligence and security systems that a band of religious fanatics was able to turn four U.S passenger jets into an enemy force, attack our cities and kill 3,000 civilians with terrifying ease. I want to know why two 110-story skyscrapers collapsed in less than two hours and why escape and rescue options were so limited.
I am suing because unlike other investigative avenues, including congressional hearings and the 9/11 commission, my lawsuit requires all testimony be given under oath and fully uses powers to compel evidence.
The victims fund was not created in a spirit of compassion. Rather, it was a tacit acknowledgement by Congress that it tampered with our civil justice system in an unprecedented way. Lawmakers capped the liability of the airlines at the behest of lobbyists who descended on Washington while the Sept. 11 fires still smoldered.
And this liability cap protects not just the airlines, but also World Trade Center builders, safety engineers and other defendants.
The caps on liability have consequences for those who want to sue to shed light on the mistakes of 9/11. It means the playing field is tilted steeply in favor of those who need to be held accountable. With the financial consequences other than insurance proceeds removed, there is no incentive for those whose negligence contributed to the death toll to acknowledge their failings or implement reforms. They can afford to deny culpability and play a waiting game.
By suing, I've forfeited the "$1.8 million average award" for a death claim I could have collected under the fund. Nor do I have any illusions about winning money in my suit. What I do know is I owe it to my husband, whose death I believe could have been avoided, to see that all of those responsible are held accountable. If we don't get answers to what went wrong, there will be a next time. And instead of 3,000 dead, it will be 10,000. What will Congress do then?
So I say to Congress, big business and everyone who conspired to divert attention from government and private-sector failures: My husband's life was priceless, and I will not let his death be meaningless. My silence cannot be bought.
Beverly Eckert, whose husband died at the World Trade Center, is the founder of Voices of September 11th, a victims advocacy group.