Though the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, may be distant memories for some, the memories remain intense for many of those who were directly affected by the attacks. This is true for …
Though the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, may be distant memories for some, the memories remain intense for many of those who were directly affected by the attacks.
This is true for Maureen Baksh-Griffin, a Cleveland resident who recently shared her story of loss with the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club. Her brother, Michael S. Baksh, died after a plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 17 years,” Baksh-Griffin said. “The memories are still so vivid."
Baksh-Griffin said it was supposed to be a really happy day for her brother, as it was his first day at a new job. He had landed a position at professional services firm Marsh & McLennan, which was located on the 94th floor of the North Tower.
She first learned about the attacks while at home watching television. While it was alarming to hear of the first plane hitting one of the World Trade Center towers, she said she was not too worried about her brother at that point.
What was worrisome was seeing a second plane hit the second tower and both the towers later collapsing. It became evident that the lives of her brother and many, many others were in grave danger.
Though they never heard from Baksh after the attacks, his sister said the family for a time held out hope he might have made it out alive. They were among the many families who waited anxiously for news of their loved ones in the immediate aftermath.
“They set up a central post and would tell us every day what they were finding in their investigations. … Everybody was just in shock, trying to make sense of where their loved ones probably were,” Baksh-Griffin said.
In hindsight, she knows he had little chance for survival. Where his new office was located was within one of the airplanes' “impact zones.” Plus, he lacked familiarity with the building and its exits and stairwells.
Baksh-Griffin said her “only comfort” is holding onto the idea that death was quick and painless for her brother, and he “did not have to make the horrible decisions others had to make.”
“I’d like to think that he was busy thinking about the future he had — his first six-figure job, the fact that his company had box seats at Madison Square Garden for Knicks games and all the good things that would come,” she said.
However, neither she, her family or the disaster’s many investigators know for sure what the final moments were like for the many victims of 9/11.
They also never received the closure of his body having been found and identified. A repository for unidentified human remains is to this day still operated by Office of Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York near The National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
“I was very happy when the museum opened, because at least I had a place I could go and sit and remember him,” Baksh-Griffin said.
Though it has been 17 years already, Baksh-Griffin said she and her family are still mourning the loss of her brother and his “bubbly” personality.
He was 36 years old, a husband and father of two. He had spent many years working in the music industry, most notably working for Def Jam Recordings.
At the urging of his wife, he was began working in the insurance industry to provide a more stable lifestyle for his family. Sadly, the new career opportunity he found at Marsh & McLennan would be his last.
“Who’s to say where the thread of our lives will come to an end?” Baksh-Griffin asked. “I have also heard many stories of people who, say missed their train and were running late and those who were off that day for whatever reason. Who’s to say who was supposed to be there or not?”
She noted each person affected by the attacks has had to find closure in his or her own way. One thing that helped her family was getting to take part in 9/11 remembrance events.
In 2005, she and her sisters were chosen to speak during the annual remembrance ceremony held in New York. In 2014, their mother got to do the same. Her sister and nephew also had the chance to travel to Guantanamo Bay to see individuals involved in planning the 9/11 attacks go to trial, taking comfort in “seeing justicein some way be served.”
Baksh-Griffin said personally found closure by finding a new mission for her work — emergency preparedness. She is currently an associate professor of nursing at Cleveland State Community College, and her professional interests include training people to respond to emergencies.
“To me, 9/11 was a wake-up call that no place is immune to having something terrible happen,” Baksh-Griffin said. “We can no longer say, ‘Not in my backyard.’”
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