Beverly Eckert was on her way to Buffalo to celebrate with family members the 58th birthday of her late husband, a 9/11 victim.
Hundreds of mourners gathered Saturday to remember two of the 50 victims of a commuter plane crash: a Sept. 11 widow, and a Vietnam veteran who died when Flight 3407 plunged into his home in suburban Buffalo.
Beverly Eckert cried often when telling others about how her husband, Sean Rooney, called her from the burning World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and said he loved her. She carried that grief into becoming a prominent advocate for the families of the 9/11 victims, her brother-in-law, Bill Bourque, said in a eulogy at a packed memorial service in a Buffalo church.
“She was not in it to be a hero,'' he said. “She was in it so that this would not happen to anyone ever again. ... She did what she set out to do. We love you Beverly.''
Eckert, 57, was aboard the Continental Connection turboprop on her way from Newark, N.J., to her hometown of Buffalo to celebrate what would have been her husband's 58th birthday.
Douglas Wielinski, 61, was inside his two-story house in the suburb of Clarence when the plane fell as it approached the Buffalo airport on the night on Feb. 12, killing him and all 49 people aboard.
“The pain is great but the memories are greater and the love will remain,'' Wielinski's wife of 29 years, Karen, said in a message read by a friend at a memorial service in an auditorium at the Clarence Middle School, which the couple's four daughters attended.
She survived with minor injuries along with their 22-year-old, Jill, by crawling through a hole in the wreckage of the house as fire erupted around them.
“Doug had a heart of God,'' she said. “He was one of the good guys, a great loving father to his girls and the person for me to share my life with. We had many things in common and enough differences to make life interesting.
“I can still look at him after more than 30 years and feel that special thrill I felt back'' when they met at a baseball game and he was “a curly-haired catcher.''
“He was the most caring and loving person anyone could hope to meet,'' Jill Wielinski said. “If he's listening now, I want him to know that I will always be his little girl who misses and loves him more each day.''
The Wielinski's white clapboard house was destroyed in the crash but other houses on the quiet suburban street just outside Buffalo were virtually untouched, though one house next door was damaged.