Beverly Eckert
Beverly Eckert

My Twin Brother Sister

“A silly song. We made it up one day when we were 8 and 9. Beverly: a year, a week, and a day younger than me. She wore my hand- me- downs, which were first hand- me -downs to me, from my slightly older sister Susan. But on this day, we both picked out two identical outfits to wear from our shared bureau. We looked in the mirror, locked arms, giggled and began to sing this silly made- up song “We’re the twin brother-sisters”. We even have a photo of that moment.

Growing up, I can’t remember a time without Beverly. We shared the same friends, and celebrated our shared birthdays in the same month. We had identical bikes. We roller skated together, built forts in the fields and tree houses together, sang songs, and talked until we fell asleep in our shared bedroom.

Beverly the writer: she wrote a book while in fourth grade about our family adventures one summer in our new house, in a new subdivision, with still country fields and woods to explore. Beverly the artist: painter, potter, supreme home decorator.

We grew up. Our sharing matured: books, plays, music, writers, ideas and fun. We played guitars together, sang together. Beverly always stretched for the stars; learned to tap dance, to sail, to kayak, to ski, yes, even to write Rap songs.

Beverly wrote and performed an original song for each of our milestone birthdays: In silliness, she made up a “Dirge” to sing for her beloved Sean, on his 50th birthday, gently mocking him growing old. Seven months later, he was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center, but not before they were able to say good bye to each other on the phone, connected until the tower came crashing down.

Beverly gave us joy and adventure. Her indomitable spirit poured into holidays, visits, vacations and fun together. When the towers came down, and Sean died with them, she was moved to action, in his name. With steely determination she demanded of our government a commission to investigate why this happened, and worked tirelessly for 6 years to make sure that change was in place to protect us all so that this could not happen again. Her goal: So that someone else’s Sean would not leave one morning for work and never come home again.

Beverly, we miss you. Your eyes still sparkle for us, your smile is bright. It is now in our memories, and our photos. You may be a bright star in the night sky, but you will always be with us, our sister. And always and forever, my twin-brother sister.”

– Karen Eckert, sister of Beverly Eckert

Scrabble Queen

“My sister Beverly loved to play Scrabble. When my husband and I would visit her, we would have to play Scrabble every day. When she came to visit us, it was the same thing. And she was a very good player. Nearly every game, she would find a way to use all seven of her letters to make a word.

Not that she was the only one in the family who was really into Scrabble. Our mother also loved to play, and enjoyed the game right up until her death in May 2008. For one of her birthdays, Beverly made our mother placemats made from pictures taken of a Scrabble board where the words were arranged to wish her happy birthday. And at our mother’s memorial, Beverly gave each of us a wooden tray from the game, to which she glued letter tiles spelling out “Mom” or “ Grandma”. It was a fitting remembrance.

Shortly after the crash, I followed Beverly’s lead, and did the same in her memory. I glued tiles from the game to wooden trays, spelling “Beverly” on each and gave them to family members. We keep these mementos with our own Scrabble game now, and when we play, we place the trays with their names near the game board, a reminder of the enjoyment we all once had.”

Creativity unleashed

“Sometimes I think Beverly had too much time on her hands. Knowing her, that is difficult to imagine, yet whenever a milestone birthday or anniversary drew near, she made the event unforgettable. She wrote poetry, she wrote rap songs, she made up games. But it didn’t end there. She performed them! For a poem written for one of Karen’s birthdays – “Ode to Karen”, she wore a toga, had fig leaves in her hair, and performed it in the manner of a Shakespearean actor. For Ray’s birthday, she performed a rap song she wrote, as she also did for our 25th wedding anniversary. The last stanza of that song is poignant:

Now Bill and Sue be married for long long time

And I thought I’d celebrate by making up this rhyme

So here’s to marriage, here’s to love and here’s to family

And I’ll end it by saying Happy Anniversary!

At the end of November 2008, our family gathered again to celebrate another milestone birthday – mine. Beverly went all out. All we were told was to wear a white sweater or T shirt. When we arrived, everyone was given a Mickey Mouse Club logo to pin on their shirt and Mickey Mouse ears. With me sitting in the family room of Karen’s house, everyone marched in as Mousekateers, singing “Today is Sue’s day” to the tune of “ Today is Tuesday”. We all knew the song having heard it countless times when we were children. She rewrote the words to make them appropriate for the day. That was the last event that she planned.

In September of this year, our brother Ray had a milestone birthday. It was our first one without Beverly. I think she would have been proud of our efforts to make it special. There was no song, but we did some pretty clever things. We are ever grateful to her for the memories she gave us of our special days. They are priceless.”

– Susan Bourque, sister of Beverly Eckert

“Friday, August 4th of 2000, Sue and I stood at the stern of the Staten Island Ferry. Beverly was at our side. She had arranged this outing- as she had arranged so many adventures in the past. We had been sightseeing in the city and decided to view lower Manhattan from the best possible angle. That meant a trip on the ferry. As we drew away from the impressive skyline, we waved at the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Beverly had called Sean at work to have him wave at us. And, although we couldn’t see him, we knew he could see us- looking from his crow’s nest in a tower that reflected the clear blue sky of that warm summer day.

Little more than a year later, Beverly was on the phone with Sean again. It was another clear blue sky – severe clear- in pilot lingo. But this Tuesday morning the tower was on fire. Sean was fighting the effects of intense heat and smoke inhalation. He had passed out trying to find an escape route around the burning jet fuel below him and, once recovered, had made his way to the top of WTC2. He had some hope of rescue from the roof. He found the door to the roof sealed; a “safety” measure devised by the best minds of the New York Port Authority. When he was able to reach Bev again, they both realized and accepted the inevitable. Beverly was watching TV. She told Sean that probably there was no way he could be rescued. Bev would later cry when she spoke of Sean’s “incredible bravery” during that last conversation. They spoke of their love for each other. They said their goodbyes. And Beverly heard a ‘whoosh” on the phone as she watched the TV. The South Tower was collapsing. Her life, and ours, were changed forever.

By the end of that terrible day, Beverly was already back in Buffalo. We gathered our families together and tried to comfort each other. We were numbed by the sudden and violent loss of our beloved Sean. We were shocked and confused. Ironically, that condition would be experienced by the pilot and co-pilot of Beverly’s fatal flight seven plus years later. Our shock and confusion, however, were not self-inflicted, and there was nothing we could do to change things, but what was amazing to me was the transition in Beverly’s focus. She almost immediately set out to create what would become “ Voices of September 11th”. Despite her own pain, she reached out to the families of other victims and, because of her background as an executive in the world of Insurance and Risk Analysis, provided practical information to help them sort through their options and rebuild their lives.

She was not content to stop there. She was concerned about the conditions surrounding 9/11; cockpit security, the facility with which suspected terrorists were granted visas in Saudi Arabia, the difficulty first responders had communicating with each other, skyscraper safety etc. When other victim’s families were pressured to accept compensation in lieu of pursuing litigation, Beverly said – and we hear her still – MY SILENCE CANNOT BE BOUGHT! It was in this spirit that she and other members o the 9/11 Family Steering Committee pushed for the eventual creation of the 9/11 Commission. It meant pounding the halls of Congress, buttonholing Senators and Representatives, traveling to Washington countless times to attend hearings. She did this tirelessly and diplomatically. Her persistent encouragement won over the reluctant and the intransigent. She was one of the best citizens this nation ever had. We all owe her a debt of gratitude.

But aside from the public Beverly, we remember other things too. She was a spirit that trod this earth lightly. She was not burdened by the internal turmoil that hobbles so many of us. She had many friends because she genuinely understood the worth of each of us. That’s why she worked in a soup kitchen, she built homes with Habitat for Humanity, she purchased gloves, hats, and sleeping bags for the homeless and passed them out in the cold of winter, she volunteered to tutor reading to students at a neighborhood school . She was deeply INVOLVED in the lives of her nephews and niece. There is so much more. We remember her voice and her laughter.

We love you Beverly. Thank you for making us so much a part of your life.”

– Bill Bourque , brother-in-law of Beverly Eckert