Sean Rooney spent his final moments telling his wife, Beverly Eckert, how much he loved her until the floor collapsed.
Beverly Eckert was waiting by the phone when it rang on the morning of September 11, 2001. It was almost certain that it would be the last time she heard her husband, Sean Rooney’s, voice.
The hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 had just crashed into the World Trade Center, trapping Rooney on the 105th floor with no way out. Rooney had called and texted her shortly after the attack. She went home right away and waited for his phone call.
He informed her that the stairs were engulfed in thick smoke and that there was no way out. He told her he had little time left and spent his final moments remembering their happiness and repeatedly telling his wife, “I love you.” His high school sweetheart was Beverly Eckert. They had met at a high school dance when he was 16 and eventually married. Eckert gripped the phone tightly, aware that this was their final moment together.
She told her story to Storycorps.
“There was a building in flames underneath him, but Sean didn’t even flinch. He stayed composed, just talking to me the way he always did. I will always be in awe of the way he faced death. Not an ounce of fear—not when the windows around him were getting too hot to touch; not when the smoke was making it hard to breathe. By now we had stopped talking about escape routes,” she said.
“I wanted to use the precious few minutes we had left just to talk. He told me to give his love to his family, and then we just began talking about all the happiness we shared during our lives together, how lucky we were to have each other. At one point, when I could tell it was getting harder for him to breathe, I asked if it hurt. He paused for a moment, and then said, ‘No.’ He loved me enough to lie,” she recalled.
“In the end, as the smoke got thicker, he just kept whispering, ‘I love you,’ over and over. Then I suddenly heard this loud explosion through the phone. It reverberated for several seconds. We held our breath. I know we both realized what was about to happen,” she said.
After that, she heard a loud crack. It was the creaking of the floor beneath Sean’s feet. The structure was collapsing in on itself. Sean let out one last gasp, and that was the end of it. Beverly Eckert repeatedly yelled his name into the phone, but there was no answer. The phone line had gone dead.
“Then I just sat there huddled on the floor holding the phone to my heart,” she said.
Beverly Eckert shared her story after the 9/11 attacks and became a lobbyist to fight for better terrorism protection. She was a member of the 9/11 Family Steering Committee, which turned into a lobbying group that helped force lawmakers in 2004 to pass reforms of the US intelligence apparatus, exposing government incompetence that led to the 2011 attacks.
“I did all of this for Sean’s memory, I did it for him,“ she said, reported The Independent. “There is a euphoria in knowing that we reached the top of the hill. … I just wanted Sean to come home from work. Maybe now, someone else’s Sean will get to come home.”
Beverly Eckert tragically died in a plane crash in 2009 while flying to her hometown to celebrate her husband Sean Rooney’s 58th birthday.
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