Friends, relatives and acquaintances were shocked to hear news reports that Beverly Eckert, the widow of a September 11 victim, was aboard the Continental flight to Buffalo, New York, that crashed Thursday night.
“I am horribly saddened by this news,” said Valerie Lucznikowska, a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. Lucznikowska said she, Eckert and another woman traveled to Washington last Friday for a meeting between 9/11 family members and President Barack Obama. “I would very much like to honor her,” Lucznikowska said. “She was truly a wonderful person. She was someone who was trying to make society better.” Lucznikowska, whose nephew died in the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, said Eckert asked Obama whether the group would have ongoing meetings with his administration. Obama said meetings would continue, even though they wouldn’t necessarily be with him. Eckert backed Peaceful Tomorrows’ effort to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and end the military commissions there, Lucznikowska said. The group elaborated on this stance in a signed letter to Obama, and Eckert gave a presidential aide a separate letter listing her own concerns, Lucznikowska said. A resident of Stamford, Connecticut, Eckert was the widow of Buffalo native Sean Rooney, who died at the World Trade Center. After that attack, Eckert co-founded “Voices of September 11,” an advocacy group for survivors and 9/11 families. She was traveling to Buffalo for a weekend celebration of what would have been her husband’s 58th birthday, according to the Buffalo News — the first news agency to report her presence on the fatal flight. The newspaper quoted Eckert’s sister, Sue Bourque, as saying: “We know she was on that plane,” even though the family hadn’t received official confirmation.
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Eckert also planned to take part in presenting a scholarship award at Canisius High School that was established in honor of her late husband, who was a Canisius alumni, according to the school’s president, John Knight. Knight said he couldn’t confirm Eckert’s presence on the plane. However, he said, the school postponed the scholarship presentation that had been scheduled for Friday. He said Eckert also had been active in a capital campaign fund-raising effort. “She struck me as a wonderful, beautiful person who clearly wanted to do something to remember her husband in a way that would have an everlasting impact on our community,” Knight said. Jay Winuk, who lost his brother in the World Trade Center attacks, said Eckert was “a terrific advocate for the 9/11 family community.” Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed late Thursday about seven miles northeast of Buffalo Niagara International Airport, killing all 49 passengers and crew members aboard and one person on the ground. Also on the plane was Ellyce Kausner, 24, her brother Chris confirmed. The Buffalo News reported that she was a graduate of Clarence High School and Canisius College, who was studying law at Florida Coastal University in Jacksonville. “My parents are on vacation in Florida, and I had to call down there and tell my father what was going on,” Chris Kausner told CNN affiliate WIVB-TV. When asked how his parents were handling the news, a shaken Kausner responded: “To tell you the truth, I heard my mother make a sound that I have never heard before.” Watch victim’s brother discuss delivering tragic news » The Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office established a command post at the scene and had investigators there, a statement from the office said. Officials said relatives of passengers aboard the flight should call 800-621-3263 for information. Watch more on the plane crash »