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Last Updated: Friday, 8 September 2006, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
9/11 experiences: A widow's story
Beverly Eckert's husband Sean worked in the World Trade Centre. He died on 11 September. She, along with other victims' families, forced the formation of the 9/11 Commission.

Beverly Eckert and her husband Sean
Beverly Eckert was with her husband Sean for 34 years
My husband Sean kissed me goodbye at about 0600 on the morning of 11 September.

I was in a meeting at my office when someone came in and said a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Centre. I had just received a voicemail from Sean who told me that the plane had hit the other building and that he was going to be there for a while.

I stepped out of the office to try to find out what was going on, only to miss another call from him telling me that he was going to be evacuating the building. That was at 0902.

There was an explosion, followed by a loud crack and a sound like an avalanche. That was the tower coming down. He was gone
Within a minute, his building, the South Tower, was hit. I drove home really fast. I arrived home and the phone rang.

It was Sean. When I heard his voice, my heart leapt. I thought he was out of the building but he said he was on the 105th floor. He worked on the 98th floor. That was the moment I knew he was not coming home.

But he was in this frame of mind that he was going to get out. He said he had tried to escape from the roof but he had passed out in the stairwell from the smoke, which was now getting thicker.

At that point we began to say our goodbyes.

Haunting memory

I consider that fate was merciful to us in that we had the opportunity to say goodbye. So many others didn't.

Beverly Eckert
For those of us who were so personally affected, there was a realisation that if we can't find a way to make this world better, death and destruction will reach us all
It's something that's going to haunt me forever but I was so fortunate to be with Sean during his last moments, and to give what comfort I could although, honestly, he was comforting me.

He was being very strong, brave and composed and telling me to give his love to his family. He also told me to live a good and full life.

We were just remembering how happy we were. I just wanted to crawl through the phone and hold him but then there was an explosion, followed by a loud crack and a sound like an avalanche. That was the tower coming down. He was gone.

I try not to look at what I lost but what I had. We had 34 very good years together - we were together since we 16 - and there are not many people who have had that.

I felt that the best way to honour his memory and the life we lived was to live a good life, to be strong and to inspire people.

I can tell Sean's story so that people understand his bravery in the face of death. Sean died without regrets and that helps me get through the day.

It was something we discussed. We had both turned 50 in 2001 and so we were kind of philosophical that year, talking about our lives together. I can remember being out in the back yard with him one summer night and saying if we died now it would be okay, because we've had such a good life. So I carry that with me in my heart and it helps a lot.

Determination

For those of us who were so personally affected by 9/11, there was a realisation that as humans we are so vulnerable and if we can't find a way to make this world better, death and destruction will just reach all of us.

Sean's possessions
Sean's possessions will form part of an open house in his memory
I think it's possible for us to find common ground and solutions to all the problems in the world. I didn't want this tragedy to begin a cycle of violence and retaliation.

I think we have the right to defend ourselves but the foreign policy we've embarked on is frightening. The world is worse off politically, and in terms of violence, than it was before.

I believe terrorists should be brought to justice but I also believe there were failures within our own government that allowed the attacks to occur. So it wasn't anger that I felt but it certainly was determination.

I began with other family members to work towards getting an investigative commission to look into 9/11 and that was very difficult. There was a lot of opposition to that within government, but we overcame it and the 9/11 commission was formed.

Getting the commission to ask the hard questions and make conclusions about accountability was also very difficult.

Euphoric moment

I don't think we were as successful as we wanted to be in that regard but the commission was put in a very difficult place at a difficult time and they had to make some practical decisions about how to get a constructive end result.

I, along with other families, worked with the commission to get legislation passed that changed the way US intelligence agencies are structured and operated. That had been attempted something like 37 times in the course of more than 50 years and had failed every time. But we did it.

That was another aspect that kept me going: I felt I had a job to do and that was a very euphoric moment on 17 December 2004 when that bill was signed.

However, after that I had to step back. I had given all of my energy and time to 9/11 issues.

I started a scholarship in Sean's name and the first student to receive a scholarship just graduated this past May with honours. He is a Rwandan refugee and when he started school he could hardly read or write.

He has now become a confident young man and was on his school's football team.

I am now looking to find something else constructive to do to continue to honour Sean's memory.

At the moment I'm gathering some of his things for an open house I'm going to have on the fifth anniversary of 11 September, to remember him.






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