Despite knowing that he was possibly living the final moments of his life, not once did Sean Rooney let his wife know the fear that had gripped him.
Sean Rooney and his wife Beverly Eckert were living their happily ever after that most people dream of. The pair met in high school at a dance when they were just 16 and immediately fell in love. Every day the Vice President at Aon would return home from his office at the World Trade Center and ask his wife, "Where is my hug?" But after leaving on the morning of September 11, 2001, and Sean never walked in the door again.
At around 9:30 a.m. Beverly received a call from her husband who was preparing to say his final goodbyes. "When I heard his voice on the phone, I was so happy, thinking he had made it out," she said according to The Sun. "He told me he was on the 105th floor. I knew right away Sean was never coming home." Sean had been trying to reach her for long before the call finally connected. Despite knowing that he was possibly living the final moments of his life, not once did he let his wife know the fear that had gripped him.
"There was a building in flames underneath him, but Sean didn’t even flinch," explained Beverelt in a recording made at StoryCorps, as reported by 9/11 Memorial & Museum. "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." What began with them discussing escape routes immediately turned into reminiscing the good times the two had shared over the years.
"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," recalled the devastated woman. "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." Understandably, Beverly wanted to be beside her husband at the moment as she said, "I told him that I wanted to be there with him, but he said, no, no, he wanted me to live a full life."
"...I just wanted to crawl through the phone lines to him, to hold him, one last time," she revealed according to NPR. All Beverly could do was not hang up and ended up hearing everything that happened around her husband in his final moments. "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," she added. "We held our breath. I know we both realized what was about to happen. Then I heard a sharp crack, followed by the sound of an avalanche. I heard Sean gasp once as the floor fell out from underneath him. I called his name into the phone over and over. Then I just sat there huddled on the floor holding the phone to my heart."
To this day, Beverly remembers the last moments she spent with her late husband clearly. "I think about that last half-hour with Sean all the time. I remember how I didn't want that day to end, terrible as it was, I didn't want to go to sleep because as long as I was awake, it was still a day that I'd shared with Sean," she said of the day when he 50-year-old husband was gone forever. "I just think of myself as living life for both of us now. And I like to think that Sean would be proud of me," she added. Eventually, she became a spokesperson for families who lost their loved ones in the 9/11 attack, according to StoryCorps.
She didn't want anyone else to be widowed like her and began promoting better reforms for the American people to protect them against terrorists. "I did all of this for Sean’s memory, I did it for him," she said in tears, per 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." Unfortunately, her life was cut short in 2009 after her plane crashed. Beverly was on her way to honor someone with a scholarship in her husband's name at their old high school. During her lifetime, she did everything she could to bring about a change. "She was such an important part of all of our work," shared a 9/11 family activist.
Cover image source: Facebook | Beverly Eckert