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9/11 Widow Beverly Eckert, 1951-2009, Advocate for Peace and 9/11 Victims

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Valerie Lucznikowska, member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows . She traveled with Beverly Eckert to meet with President Obama last week to support closing down Guantanamo.

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On yesterday’s broadcast, we remembered the life of Alison Des Forges, one of the world’s foremost experts on Rwanda. She was among the fifty people who died in the crash of Continental Flight 3407 near Buffalo, New York on Thursday. Today, we look at the life of another of the victims, a woman who became an advocate for peace and 9/11 victims after losing her husband in the Twin Towers. Beverly Eckert was a co-chair of Voices of Sept. 11 and worked closely with the group September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. Her husband Sean died while at work at a firm on the 98th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

Yesterday on our broadcast, we remembered the life of Alison Des Forges, one of the world’s foremost experts on Rwanda. She was among the fifty people who died in the crash of the Continental Flight 3407 near Buffalo, New York last Thursday.

Well, today, we’re going to look at the life of another woman, another of the victims. She became an advocate for peace and 9/11 victims after losing her husband in the Twin Towers. Beverly Eckert was a co-chair of Voices of September 11. She had been a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. Her husband Sean died while at work in a firm on the ninety-eighth floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower. Beverly was on her way to Buffalo to mark Sean’s birthday and establish a scholarship in his name at his local high school. Her death comes just days after she met with President Obama along with other family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks and the bombing of the USS Cole.

After September 11, 2001, Beverly Eckert became a strong advocate for the victims and families of the 9/11 attacks. She was also strongly opposed to the war in Iraq. Beverly spoke about her activism in 2005.

    BEVERLY ECKERT: It’s hard to turn around and see the hole in the skyline where my husband’s building used to be, where he died. I don’t want there to be any more widows like me. I don’t think that I can come here again, to the place where my husband died, and knowing that I failed him and that his government failed him again.

AMY GOODMAN:

Beverly Eckert died in Thursday’s plane crash. I’m joined now by Valerie Lucznikowska. She is a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. She traveled with Beverly Eckert to meet with President Obama last week to support closing down Guantanamo.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

VALERIE LUCZNIKOWSKA:

Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN:

You know, we heard, of course, about Beverly Eckert, probably the most famous person who died on that flight. She had just met with President Obama. But we didn’t know she had been a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, which opposes the war.

VALERIE LUCZNIKOWSKA:

Yes, she had been. As a matter of fact, she was a little upset at the meeting, because I had brought a letter to give to President Obama, backing his stand on closing Guantanamo and reviewing all of the cases and advocating peace. And she said, “Oh, I didn’t get a chance to sign it.” And by that time, I had a sealed envelope, and I had passed it on to an aide already. And I’m sorry at this point that I didn’t open it and ask her just to put her handwritten signature on it, because she had very much wanted to do that.

She had brought her own letter along, which concerned the 9/11 Families for the WMD Commission, which was just information. I think they had just finished forming this committee to support the work of the WMD Commission.

AMY GOODMAN:

And explain what that is, the WMD Commission.

VALERIE LUCZNIKOWSKA:

That is to look into the proliferation of WMD across the world and to try to stop it. Beverly was always, all the way back to 9/11, she was a great advocate of looking into terrorism and trying to keep the country safe and to try to look into the real reasons for terrorism and to stop that before it happens.

AMY GOODMAN:

How long had you known her?

VALERIE LUCZNIKOWSKA:

Well, I’ve known her a few years, not well. I did not know her very well when she joined Peaceful Tomorrows. She had worked with some other members more closely than myself. I joined in 2002 and didn’t really get active until the beginning of 2003.

AMY GOODMAN:

Who did you lose?

VALERIE LUCZNIKOWSKA:

I lost my nephew in the World Trade Center. He worked in the second tower.

AMY GOODMAN:

And when you spoke to — she spoke to President Obama — all of the newspapers are showing pictures of her shaking hands with President Obama — what did she say? You were right there in the background.

VALERIE LUCZNIKOWSKA:

Yes, well, she and I were sitting together. Three of us had come down on the train. She lived in Stamford, and she got on the train, and then Carol Ashley and I joined her in New York at Penn Station, and we traveled all the way down together. And so, we, the three of us, were sitting together at the meeting, and that’s why you see me in that photograph.

AMY GOODMAN:

And tell us about this conversation as they shook hands.

VALERIE LUCZNIKOWSKA:

Well, I didn’t hear, because it was just a quick reading. When the President entered the room, we were arranged in a rectangle of tables. There were about forty people there. And he went around from person to person, personally greeting them in a very low sotto voce, so it was not easy to hear exactly what was said, but they were very brief greetings. I just —

AMY GOODMAN:

Why was it important to Beverly, as well as to you, to close down Guantanamo?

VALERIE LUCZNIKOWSKA:

I think we definitely agreed with President Obama in his opening statement at the meeting, which is that Guantanamo, the physical presence of Guantanamo, is a symbol to the world of something that we would rather had never happened in the United States. And he spoke of it as being entangled with Abu Ghraib. And we both felt that this was something that should not continue to exist. It had existed far too long.

AMY GOODMAN:

And her opposition to the war in Iraq?

VALERIE LUCZNIKOWSKA:

She was very low-key about this, because she was trying to change things from the inside. This is two pages that she sent me the night before we went to Washington. And she was so well considered. She considered all of the possibilities of what — the meeting was essentially on Guantanamo with the President. And she had — she has a number of paragraphs on just the framework.

The one great concern she had was this shouldn’t be a one-off meeting, where it would only be a matter of hello and goodbye and that’s it. She wanted to see a series of meetings. And in fact, when the President took questions from the people there, her question was “Will there be a continuation of this sort of meeting?” And he answered that certainly he would not be present, but he would have a representative, and he hoped there would be further meetings.

In this two-pager that she did, she sets up the basis for a group of representative 9/11 families that would then work with the government to see that justice was brought to the people in Guantanamo, that Guantanamo was closed. I think a lot of people don’t realize that the President still has a tough road ahead of him in closing Guantanamo and reversing the excesses that were committed there and in other places around the globe.

AMY GOODMAN:

I want to thank you very much for being with us. We will link to this on our website, her own statement. Valerie Lucznikowska is a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, as was Beverly Eckert, and then she started her own group, as well, also worked with Habitat for Humanity and other groups. They both met with President Obama last week to support closing down Guantanamo.

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