11 September 2009

"...death has no power over our hearts..."

On this solemn day of remembrance, only Beverly's words will suffice.

One year before she was killed, Beverly was back in Buffalo, celebrating the life of Sean Rooney, and her love for him, surrounded by family and friends, on his birthday, Feb. 15, 2008. A few weeks later, she put together the simple and moving account of that day that appears below. (Beverly posted it in Sean Rooney's Guest Book at Legacy.com.) She also described how she and Sean's loved ones remembered him on the sixth anniversary of the attacks, in September 2007.

On this September 11th, we remember them both, and all the others. And her simple words are eloquent testament to a remarkable women, who, even with her passing, is able to shine a bright light on the fleeting nature of life, and the powerful permanence of love.


March 09, 2008

Hi Sean, it’s me.

I know it was a while ago, but I thought I’d tell you all about what we did on your birthday this year.

We actually had three celebrations. The first one was on your actual birthday, the 15th. Susan, Bill and I went to dinner at the Roycroft Inn. It was cold and snowy, just like that winter you worked there, but it was warm inside by the fireplace, and we had a great meal. They had live jazz in the lounge, so after dinner we stayed to listen. All evening we talked, laughed, and most of all, we remembered. It felt like there were four of us there that evening, not just three.

The next day Karen, Mike and I we went to the Neumann Center at UB because the 4:30 Mass there was dedicated to you. The priest, Father Pat, greeted us when we walked in and asked a few questions about you. A couple of times during the mass, he mentioned how you died, but he also mentioned your love of wine and food and how our families often gathered to cook in your memory. So right in the middle of mass, I invited him to join us over at Karen and Mike’s after mass. He brought a bottle of Brunnello. By the way, I made your ‘Chicken Alfredo’ that night and it turned out great. Yes, hon, I’ve learned to cook a little…

The next day, we were back at the Procknals. This time both of our families gathered, and we made ravioli - tray after tray, with three pots of water boiling on the stove to cook it all. We had three banquet tables pushed together to accommodate us all. And we thought we had the head count right, but when we all sat down, we discovered there was one extra place setting, just to my right. So I went and got a photo of you, propped it up there, and poured you some wine. All through dinner, I couldn’t stop smiling - the food, the wine, everyone sitting around the table talking and laughing, and you next to me where you belong.

It was a birthday we’ll all remember. It was a lot like this past 9/11 anniversary, a rollercoaster mix of happy and sad. The commemoration started with a ceremony at the Red Cross Headquarters. Your mom and Cynthia did readings. It seemed only fitting that it was pouring rain through the whole ceremony. For one of the musical selections, they played “Only Time” by Enya. I guess I dropped something while we were standing there listening. My sister told me she touched my arm to hand it back, but I never saw nor felt her. I must have been wherever you are.

The next day, your mom and I went to lunch. Afterward we drove over to your old house on Dorchester Avenue. The basketball hoop is still there, over the garage door. We laughed about the time you backed the car into the chimney, and the way you dismantled your ‘51 MG all over the driveway one year and then rebuilt it. Your mom pointed out the window on the third floor that was your bedroom. Then we just sat there in the car, quietly looking at the house, remembering.

After I dropped Rosemary off, I went to the Amherst 9/11 Memorial Grove with Carol and Kamil. One of the three trees dedicated to you there has lost a lot of its branches. But there are trees in other places in Stamford and Buffalo that are still doing OK. People leave flowers and notes at them. Still.

The next day there was a ceremony in the morning at the waterfront downtown. They asked a family member to speak, so I said a few words. Then, we held a car-wash fund-raiser at your old grammar school, to raise money for your memorial scholarship. It was raining and there were kids with hoses, so needless to say we all got soaked, but we had a great time. The kids worked hard, and our families pitched in and helped, too. All together, we raised over $800 dollars. By the way, one of your old eighth-grade classmates is a teacher there now, and she told me you were the cutest guy in the class and all the girls had a crush on you. Then Sister Gail, the current principal, located a copy of your school transcript. We had to laugh - you had high grades, but you didn’t do too well in the deportment categories.

After the car wash, our families went to Cole’s on Elmwood to get something to eat. There was a TV in the bar, and the local evening news was on. They were broadcasting segments about the 9/11 events of the day. We could see that they were showing footage of us, so we were yelling and pointing. On one segment, they showed a photo of you, so we all cheered. I can’t imagine what the other bar patrons were thinking of our raucous reaction to the 9/11 news stories.

At the end of the broadcast, we raised our voices and our glasses: “To Sean!”

It was a good day.

Something I’ve come to realize over the past six and a half years, Sean, is that death has no power over our hearts - neither yours, nor ours. I want you to know how much you are loved, and remembered.

You are with us, still.

All my love, all my life.

[Photo of the view out of Beverly and Sean's kitchen window by Anthony Toth]

10 September 2009

Voices of September 11th honors the efforts Beverly Eckert with its Building Bridges Award

The influential 9/11 advocacy and support group that Beverly Eckert co-founded honored her memory with its annual Building Bridges award in a presentation in New York City today. Two of Beverly's sisters, Karen Eckert and Sue Bourque, accepted the award on her behalf.

Just weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, Beverly and Mary Fetchet, another Connecticut resident, who lost her son Brad in the attacks, established Voices of September 11th. The fledgling organization was run on a shoestring by Beverly, Mary and a few others mainly to providing family members and others affected by the attacks with information about such things as the recovery of remains, financial and medical assistance, the victims compensation fund and counseling. As the needs of the 9/11 community expanded, so did the staff, membership and services of FOS11. It now has about 7,000 members and a wide-ranging agenda which includes the 9/11 Living Memorial project, reaching out to victims of terrorism at home and abroad, advocating for government reform, and providing a number of services to its members.

Beverly's effective advocacy lives on in the efforts of her sisters

Intelligent, capable, energetic and determined -- some of the words used to describe the Eckert sisters and explain their successes, and reason enough to not stand in their way once they decide on a course of action. Beverly, Susan, Margaret and Karen individually and working together have done impressive things, and a recent Associated Press article by Carolyn Thompson weaves together the story of Beverly's activism for 9/11 reform and the work done by Sue Bourque and Karen Eckert in the cause of airline safety.

Sue and Karen noted that the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 on Feb. 12 that took Beverly from them did not "silence Beverly's voice or spirit," according to Thompson.

"If anything, she would want us to have her voice ... I want her voice to resonate," Karen Eckert said.

It already has in the way it has opened doors of senators and representatives to 3407 families. Many knew Beverly, or knew of her.

Her voice resonates in the minds of her sisters, too: whenever they present their fact- and solution-driven case for better pilot training and hiring practices, fatigue management and closer government oversight of the airline industry.

"We have an agenda. The one thing we knew is we can't just go there and say `please help us because we lost our loved ones,'" Karen Eckert said.

"We knew we had to be organized," Bourque said, recalling Beverly's ability to boil down issues to talking points which she could take to lawmakers.

Recently, Sue sent a message to a number of Beverly's friends, providing more details the the work she and Karen and others have been doing to promote better airline safety:

Beverly’s own courage and determination showed us the way. After the loss of Sean, she made a commitment to work for changes that would keep a horror such as the events of 9/11 from ever happening again. Because of her efforts and those of other 9/11 Family members, our country is a safer place.

We mirror her commitment today in another critical area: to improve airline safety for all. We are working to bring about changes in the airline industry that will prevent fatigued, undertrained and underpaid pilots from entering the cockpit. Accomplishing that is our commitment to our sister and her legacy.