Before he began speaking to the Business Council this morning in the East Room of the White House, President Obama took a moment "to say a word about the terrible tragedy that took place outside Buffalo last night. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends who have lost loved ones, and as always, our thanks go out to the brave first responders who arrived immediately to try and save lives, and who are still on the scene keeping people safe."
The President singled out one victim in particular, who was part of a group of families whose loved ones had been victimized by al Qaeda terrorism, Beverly Eckert.
Eckert was flying to her hometown of Buffalo to celebrate what would have been her husband, Sean Rooney’s 58th birthday. Eckert publicly told the story of Rooney calling her from the World Trade Center to say he loved her when there was a loud explosion and then silence.
As a co-chair of the 9/11 Family Steering Committee, Eckert was a part of a small group of 9/11 widows, mothers and children who pushed the Bush Administration for a 9/11 Commission and Congress to implement its recommendations on intelligence reform.
"Tragic events such as these remind us of the fragility of life and the value of every single day," President Obama said this morning, "and one person who understood that well was Beverly Eckert, who was on that flight and who I met with just a few days ago. Beverly lost her husband on 9/11, and became a tireless advocate for the families whose lives were forever changed on that September day. In keeping with that passionate commitment, she was on her way to Buffalo to mark what would have been her husband’s birthday and launch a scholarship in his memory. She was an inspiration to me and to so many others, and I pray that her family finds peace and comfort in the hard days ahead."
One week ago Eckert and other families met with the President to discuss fighting terrorism and the changes he would make to how terrorists are prosecuted. (Read more about that HERE.)
Eckert was a leader of "Voices of September 11" which promotes "public policy reform on prevention, preparedness and response to terrorism."
In 2003, Eckert wrote that he had "chosen to go to court rather than accept a payoff from the 9/11 victims compensation fund. Instead, I want to know what went so wrong with our intelligence and security systems that a band of religious fanatics was able to turn four U.S passenger jets into an enemy force, attack our cities and kill 3,000 civilians with terrifying ease. I want to know why two 110-story skyscrapers collapsed in less than two hours and why escape and rescue options were so limited. I am suing because unlike other investigative avenues, including congressional hearings and the 9/11 commission, my lawsuit requires all testimony be given under oath and fully uses powers to compel evidence."
"The victims fund was not created in a spirit of compassion," she wrote. "Rather, it was a tacit acknowledgment by Congress that it tampered with our civil justice system in an unprecedented way. Lawmakers capped the liability of the airlines at the behest of lobbyists who descended on Washington while the Sept. 11 fires still smoldered. And this liability cap protects not just the airlines, but also World Trade Center builders, safety engineers and other defendants. The caps on liability have consequences for those who want to sue to shed light on the mistakes of 9/11."
– Jake Tapper and Karen Travers