Page last updated at 18:04 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

9/11 widow dies in NY plane crash

Beverly Eckert, photographed holding a picture of her husband in May 2002
Beverly Eckert lobbied Congress to reform US intelligence operations

A widow of the 9/11 terror attacks was among those killed in the New York state plane crash, relatives have said.

Beverly Eckert was flying to Buffalo to celebrate what would have been her husband Sean Rooney's 58th birthday when Continental flight 3407 came down.

Her sister, Sue Bourque, told the Buffalo News: "We know she was on that plane, and now she's with him."

President Barack Obama said Mrs Eckert, who he met recently, was an inspiration to him "and to so many others".

She was among 50 people killed when the flight from Newark to Buffalo Niagara International Airport crashed at 2210 local time on Thursday in Clarence Center, only minutes from its destination.

Mrs Eckert became one of the most visible faces of the nation's grief when she tearfully told how her husband, a childhood sweetheart who worked on the 98th floor of the World Trade Center's south tower, had called to say he loved her moments before his death.

She then joined other relatives of 9/11 victims in lobbying Congress over legislation reforming US intelligence, which eventually passed in 2004.

As joint chairman of the Voices of September 11, a group which pushed for further investigation of the attacks, and as a member of the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Commission, she became a high-profile campaigner for better protection of US citizens.

In a 2003 opinion piece for the newspaper USA Today, she wrote: "My husband's life was priceless. My silence cannot be bought."

Obama tribute

Speaking after the crash, US President Barack Obama, who met Mrs Eckert only a few days ago at the White House, paid tribute to her work for others.

Barack Obama pays tribute to the victims including Ms Eckert

She was among a group of relatives of those killed on on 9/11 and in the USS Cole bombing who had been invited to talk to the president about the new administration's plans for dealing with terror suspects.

"Tragic events such as these remind us of the fragility of life, and the value of every single day," Mr Obama said.

"You see, Beverly lost her husband on 9/11. And became a tireless advocate for those families whose lives were forever changed on that September day."

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand echoed that praise, saying: "She was a strong and passionate voice for the families of the 9/11 tragedy."

Carol Ashley, whose daughter also died at the World Trade Center, told the Associated Press that the way Mrs Eckert had died had been particularly painful for fellow 9/11 relatives with whom she was friends.

"The fact that it was a plane crash, it was fire, it was reminiscent of 9/11 that way - that's just very difficult."

Mrs Eckert, who was 57, lived in Stamford, Connecticut.

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