Video: Chance meeting

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updated 10/13/2004 6:06:35 PM ET 2004-10-13T22:06:35

Last Thursday in Washington D.C., Carol Ashley, Mary Fetchet, and Beverly Eckert experienced what they call a “divine intervention."

While walking through the Capitol, they became lost. Moments later, they found exactly what they had spent months working for.

All three women lost loved ones on Sep. 11. Since then, they’ve devoted themselves to making America safer.

Their mission is to push legislation through Congress before Nov. 2, restructuring the intelligence community based on the core recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

They traveled to Washington to support the 9/11 reform bill, but they were not supposed to meet with Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. It was, literally, an accident. A wrong turn down an unfamiliar hallway in the Capitol led them to his inner sanctum, where the Speaker made them an unexpected promise: to get the 9/11 intelligence reform bill to the president by Election Day.

“I don’t think it was a coincidence. I feel that our family members that died brought us down that path,” says Fetchet. “And they are pushing us forward to do what should be done.”

So when they spotted the Speaker, they insisted on a meeting. Breaking all rules of Washington bureaucracy, they got it.

“We don’t play by the rules—we understand what the rules are but we don’t really sense that they apply to us,” says Eckert.  “These people are representing us and if we want to speak to them, communicate, they should be willing to communicate with us.”

The outcome was more surprising than the meeting. It was a pledge to push the 9/11 bill through the system in days—not months or years.

“There was a total commitment that the House would work with the Senate to get a bill on the president’s desk before the election. That’s the promise,” says Eckert.

The Senate and the House have passed different versions of the bill.  While Congress has recessed for the election, the women still want a compromise before the election.

According to Ashley, Hastert told them controversial issues would not derail the process.

But can the Speaker keep his word?

“It would be politically and morally reprehensible for the Speaker to renege on that promise,” says Eckert.  “He owes it to us—to all America and to those that died on 9/11.”

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