16 February 2009

A perfectionist with a keen eye for detail

Beverly Eckert liked to have everything just so.

You could see it in they way she decorated her house, the way she dressed for an important event, the care she took in preparing the many written statements she read in front of gatherings large and small.

And just now, I made a small change in one of my earlier blog entries that Beverly had asked me to make. It illustrates her attention to detail, and her desire to leave behind an accurate record. This quality is of course golden to an historian, who values accuracy and a sharp observer's eye. In any case, I had written that there was a "small picture" of Sean looking down on us in the living room of Beverly's house. In the course of a telephone conversation a few weeks ago, Beverly mentioned, almost as an aside, that it would be nice if i could remove the word "small." She did not want people to think that she had any sort of diminished appreciation for Sean's pictorial representation in her house. 

I had said "small" because the photograph, sitting on a shelf, was unobtrusive, in scale with its surroundings, perhaps four by six inches in dimension. There were larger pieces of art on the walls, and I suppose I had subconsciously compared Sean's photo to these when I wrote those words.

I thought at the time of Beverly's remark that it was a small quibble. But upon reflection I realized that this was one of the most important things she could convey: her great appreciation and love for Sean. My use of "small" in connection with the photo of her husband had deeper significance than I had at first imagined. And so I learned a lesson in perceptions and sensitivity and perspective. And the keen eye of a perfectionist.

Another thing that has made working with Beverly over the years such a pleasure was her deep desire to present the truth with great honesty, to lay down the elements of her story and let the chips fall where they may. She did not shy away, for example, from discussing times of disagreement and dischord among members of the Family Steering Committee. Nor did she pull punches regarding her own shortcomings or foibles. Above all, she was concerned about making sure credit for 9-11 reform efforts was given where credit was due.

So readers of No Truer Hearts can expect an account as honest and meticulous as Beverly, one of the book's main sources. And, by the way, as straight and balanced as the perspective of the author. These days following Beverly's death have imbued accounts of her life with glowing praise without exception. And on an emotional and psychological and personal level that is to be expected. (But I can just imagine Beverly complaining about this blog's recent focus only on her.)

But as the time comes to put her story down on paper, the account will hew closely to what the sources provide -- all the sources, not just Beverly. That is what both she and I wanted most.

No comments: