Friday, February 13, 2009

Beverly Eckert, widow of 9/11 victim, was aboard Flight 3407

Beverly Eckert, widow of 9/11 victim, was aboard Flight 3407
By Sharon Linstedt and Dale Anderson

The usually joyful meet-and-greet area of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport was a corridor of tears and sorrow early this morning as family and friends of those aboard Continental Express Flight 3407 filed in to get official word of their loved ones' fates.

For Sue Bourque, the wait for confirmation regarding her sister, Beverly Eckert, was all too familiar. Eckert is the widow of Sean Rooney, a Buffalo native who lost his life in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Eckert was traveling to Buffalo for a weekend celebration of what would have been her husband's 58th birthday. She also had planned to take part in presentation of a scholarship award at Canisius High School that she established in honor of her late husband. Bourque said that while the family had not yet received official confirmation of her sister's fate, the reality was settling in. "We know she was on that plane," Bourque said, "and now she's with him." Eckert, Rooney's high school sweetheart, continued to live in their home in Stamford, Conn., after the terrorists' attacks of 2001. As co-chairwoman of Voices of Sept. 11, she pushed for a formal commission to investigate intelligence failures and for a proper memorial to the victims. Family members and friends identified two other people believed to be on the plane as Ellyce Kausner, a graduate of Clarence High School and Canisius College who was studying law at Florida Coastal University in Jacksonville, and Maddy Loftus, a Buffalo State College graduate who lives in New Jersey. Friends said Loftus was heading here for a weekend reunion of Buffalo State women hockey players. One friend said she may have been flying with other young women heading here for the same reunion. "You never think this is going to happen to you," Kausner's aunt, Susan Leckey, also from Clarence, said at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. "It always happens to somebody else, and you see it on TV." Those waiting to pick up passengers from the ill-fated flight at the time of the crash were ushered to the USAirways Lounge, where airline employees answered general questions and offered consolation, beverages and snacks. A chaplain also was brought in to calm the distraught loved ones. But formal conformation was not expected to be given until later this morning, when Continental corporate officials could be flown to Buffalo. "We know they're dead. Why can't they just tell us or take us to ID them," said one grieving man who declined to give his name.

Passengers arriving for early morning flights also were subdued. "I really don't feel like getting on a plane right now," said Runda Ry, who had driven from Toronto to catch a flight to Atlanta.

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