While friends and family mourned their friend Beverly Eckert, President Barack Obama did the same just a week or so after having met her for the first time.
Eckert was among a group of loved ones of 9/11 victims who met with Obama last week. On the tragic day in 2001, Eckert was talking to her husband, Sean Rooney, on a cell phone as he fought to escape the World Trade Center. When the south tower collapsed, she was still on the phone with him and listened to him die.
And Friday, Eckert's relatives repeated the grieving process after learning she was among the 50 people who perished in a plane crash in Buffalo late Thursday. Eckert was traveling upstate to celebrate what would have been her husband's 58th birthday. Eckert was scheduled to deliver an address to Canisius High School, where Rooney's legacy was to be honored with a scholarship.
"We know she was on that plane and now she's with him," Eckert’s sister, Sue Borque, told The Buffalo News at the Buffalo Airport, where flight 3047 was scheduled to land at 10:40 p.m.
Before Obama addressed a group of business leaders Friday morning, he opened with a note about Eckert.
"Tragic events such as these remind us of the fragility of life and the value of every single day," he said. "And one person who understood that well was Beverly Eckert, who was on that flight and who I met with just a few days ago. Beverly lost her husband on 9/11, and became a tireless advocate for the families whose lives were forever changed on that September day. In keeping with that passionate commitment, she was on her way to Buffalo to mark what would have been her husband’s birthday and launch a scholarship in his memory. She was an inspiration to me and to so many others, and I pray that her family finds peace and comfort in the hard days ahead."
In 2006, Eckert wrote a diary for the BBC called "9/11 experience: A widow's story." She reflected on her last call with her husband, writing, "I consider that fate was merciful to us in that we had the opportunity to say goodbye. So many others didn't."
Some Victims' Names Released
Officials Friday afternoon began releasing a few of the names of those who died when a plane crashed into a home near Buffalo, N.Y., late Thursday night.
Below are some of those names:
+ Capt. Marvin Renslow, pilot, of Lutz, Fla.
+ Rebecca Shaw, first officer, of Maple Valley, Wash.
+ Matilda Quintero, flight attendant.
+ Donna Prisco, flight attendant.
+ Capt. Joseph Zuffoletto, off-duty crew member.
+ Alison Des Forges, of Buffalo, considered one of the world's leading experts on the genocide in Rwanda.
+ Ellyce Kausner, student at Florida Coastal School of Law.
+ Maddy Loftus, of Parsippany, N.J. Headed to Buffalo for weekend reunion of women hockey players.
+ Coleman Mellett, guitarist in jazz musician Chuck Mangione's band.
+ Gerry Niewood, saxophonist and member of jazz musician Chuck Mangione's band.
+ Susan Wehle, of Amherst, N.Y. Was cantor at Temple Beth Am in Williamsville.
+ Carl Yarber, of Riverside, Calif., member of several Tampa Bay, Fla.-area bands over the past several decades.
Matilda Quintero had finally gotten the job she wanted less than a year ago. One of her neighbors in Iselin, N.J., said she was excited to have gotten the job with Colgan Air in May, and that she was always optimistic. She left behind two grown daughters and also is survived by her mother.
Two of the victims of Thursday's crash in upstate New York might have filled your home with music at one point. Gerry Niewood played saxophone and guitarist Coleman Mellet was a guitarist, both in jazz legend Chuck Mangione's band. Mellet's mother-in-law told News4 that Mangione immediately called Mellet's wife, Jeannie Bryson, to notify her of the tragedy.
Maddy Loftus loved her friends just as much as she loved playing hockey. The promise of being reunited with fellow players is what led her to Newark Liberty Airport Thursday night, ready to board a plane and visit with friends in Buffalo for the weekend. She graduated from Parsippany High School in 2002, after becoming the first girl to play hockey for the boys' varsity team there.