Toronto

Family who lost father, husband on 9/11 wants more recognition for National Day of Service

Brennan Basnicki was 16 when his father Ken was killed at the World Trade Centre in New York. Ten years ago the federal government declared Sept. 11 as the National Day of Service. But as the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks approaches, Basnicki and his family are pushing for the day to be more widely recognized.

Saturday marks 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks

Brennan Basnicki lost father in 9/11 attacks, wants more people to recognize National Day of Service

3 months ago
3:27
Ten years ago, the federal government declared Sept. 11 as the National Day of Service. But as the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks approaches, this family is pushing for the day to be more widely recognized. 3:27

Brennan Basnicki's goal is for people to reshape the way they view the anniversary of 9/11.

Basnicki is one of many Canadians who were affected by the tragedy. He was just 16 when his father Ken was killed in the north tower of the World Trade Centre while on a business trip in New York. Ten years ago, he welcomed the federal government's declaration of Sept. 11 as the National Day of Service.

"What an opportunity to say thank you to our first responders, our men and women of service, and that can be anything from volunteering to making a donation," he said, adding his focus is bringing more awareness to the National Day of Service in Canada.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, four coordinated terror strikes played out on American soil — with two hijacked aircraft crashing into the twin towers in New York. The third commercial jet slammed into the Pentagon in Virginia. The fourth airliner failed to hit its target when the passengers attacked the al-Qaeda extremists who hijacked it. That plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field with no survivors.

Nearly 3,000 people died, and 25,000 more were injured.

WATCH| CBC Toronto's Talia Ricci talks to the wife and son of s man who died in the 9/11 attacks 

But as the 20th anniversary of the terror attack approaches, Basnicki and his family are pushing for it to be more widely recognized and for people to remember that day in a different way.

"One of the goals of terrorism is to inflict terror and focus on the negatives and we're trying to reframe that," Basnicki said.

"Remember the positive things that came in the aftermath."

He personally reflects on the people who brought his family meals and flowers after his father died, as well as organizations like Scholarship America, which supported both him and his sister throughout their post-secondary education.

Basnicki says people often comment on how much he resembles his father. He says he has also embraced many of the same hobbies and interests, particularly sports.

"I know if he were around we'd out on the water, skiing, doing whatever together." 

'He's still with me'

Basnicki says it was his mother Maureen who spearheaded their advocacy work. She was a flight attendant on a layover in Germany and couldn't be contacted after the attacks. She was stuck there for a few days while flights were grounded. Following 9/11, she was unable to return to her job, and took up a number of charitable causes and political activism roles.

"Being an advocate and trying to redefine 9/11 as a positive day instead of one of hate and horror is very much a part of my healing process," she said, adding she would would love to see more people taking the day to volunteer and give back to the community.

"It's a much better goal or mission than it is to dwell on that day that changed our world."

Maureen Basnicki says channeling her grief into advocacy work has been a part of her healing process. (Submitted/Basnicki family)

In a statement, John Babcock, spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, says government representatives will take part in events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. and in Canada.

"They will represent Canada in remembering the lives taken so cruelly, and offer our deepest sympathies to their loved ones on behalf on all Canadians," the statement reads.

Meanwhile, Maureen says the family intentionally chooses a different day to mourn the loss of Ken. She describes him as an amazing husband and father, and says recognizing the National Day of Service is the best way to create a living legacy for him and the 23 other Canadians who were killed.

"I had 20 years with Ken and now I've had 20 years without him," she said.

"But he's still with me."

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