‘No Federal Aid, Just Photographs’: A Canadian Widow’s Search for Justice on September 11 | The Canadian News

Al-Qaida’s attack on the United States turned Maureen Basnicki into a widow and single mother with two children, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bills for treatment and lawyers.

It also made her an advocate for the victims.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the former Air Canada flight attendant co-founded the Canadian Coalition Against Terror and convinced parliamentarians to pass legislation that would allow victims to sue state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran. .

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series.

She testified before parliamentary committees, fought for a federal ombudsman for crime victims, and September 11 was declared a National Day of Service in Canada.

Most recently, on August 20, he represented victims of terrorism on a United Nations panel to mark the International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to Victims of Terrorism.

“I have some wins,” he said.

Maureen Basnicki with her husband Ken.

But there are also unfinished business. The accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in Pakistan in 2003, but is still on trial.

And there have been setbacks, most recently the return to power of the Taliban militants who housed the leaders of Al-Qaida and the network of terrorist training camps.

“There has been no justice for me,” Basnicki told Global News in an interview.

“There probably never will be.”

Still, he feels that he can help make things better for the victims, based on the experiences he endured.

Plumes of smoke rise from the World Trade Center buildings in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo / Patrick Sison, file)

Plumes of smoke rise from the World Trade Center buildings in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo / Patrick Sison, File)

Maureen was at the Hilton Hotel in Mainz, Germany, on an Air Canada crew stopover, when she turned on CNN and saw hijacked planes crashing into the World Trade Center.

She tried calling her husband Ken, who was in a meeting on the 106th floor of the North Tower. He did not answer.

But he managed to convey a message through his mother, telling her that the room was filled with smoke, the ceiling was blocked, and that he did not know how he was going to escape.

And then the line was cut.

Ken was fit and calm under pressure. He rode motorcycles, coached his children’s teams, and had been building a house in Collingwood, Ontario. If anyone could get out of a burning building, it was Ken. But as the days passed without a word from him, they knew he hadn’t made it.

Heartbroken and in the mist, Maureen found herself largely abandoned. He had his friends and family, but no official attendance, he said.

“No federal aid, just photographs,” he said.

She could have used it. There were forms to fill out, papers to sign. Insurance companies and lawyers. She had to figure it out on her own, but she was angry and frustrated, and it was difficult.

“I just wanted to wrap myself up and try to heal myself,” he said.

A Canadian flag is placed in the name of Kenneth William Basnicki in the north pool of the 9/11 National Monument, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo / Mark Lennihan)

It wasn’t until April 2002 that the Ontario Office for Victims of Crime located her daughter, Erica, and asked her if she needed help.

Unable to bring herself to go back to work on airplanes, given the way her husband died, Maureen was referred to the Canadian Red Cross for financial assistance, but they wanted to see purchase receipts for the six months before the attacks.

“Who keeps the purchase receipts? I certainly didn’t, ”he said.

She eventually received a helper, “but do I think I got adequate compensation from the Canadian Red Cross? I’ll just never know. ”That’s because the man who handled his case fled to Africa after learning he was wanted for fraud, he said.

A year after the terrorist attack, the first of three shipments of Ken’s body parts arrived from the United States. A comb that he had left in his car at the airport provided the DNA match.

But his death certificate said his body had not been found. Now that the search had turned up remains, it was deemed invalid, so he had to start over.

“It was just overwhelming,” he said.

Days later, a letter arrived for Ken. It was from the federal government. She opened it and learned that instead of offering help, the government wanted her to pay taxes on her late husband’s income.

In the US, victims of September 11 were given an income tax pass for the years 2000 and 2001, a gesture of support. But Canada would not.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” he said.

Ken and Maureen Basnicki.

Family brochure.

In speeches and testimony, Basnicki has called for a national strategy to support victims of terrorism and mass violence, who, he said, need adequate compensation, treatment and justice.

“There is no plan or policy that adequately addresses the supports that are so necessary for victims of terrorism, for victims of mass murder,” he said.

While terrorism is a federal responsibility, with minor exceptions, support for crime victims comes from the provinces.

“This is beyond the capacity of the provinces,” Basnicki said. “The feds must step in and take care of their citizens.”

He said that while the federal government funds de-radicalization programs for extremists and settles lawsuits, it has turned its back on victims of terrorism.

“The rights of victims and the needs of victims must not be neglected,” he said.

In 2013, Basnicki flew to Guantanamo Bay to witness the trial of several al-Qaida members linked to 9/11. I wanted to look them in the eye and I wanted to meet other families.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed kept his head down throughout the process, but Basnicki managed to capture the attention of a conspirator, Ramzi Binalshibh.

She stared at him, she said, and it felt like a small triumph.

Since then, Basnicki has convinced the federal Department of Justice to help her pay for some of the travel costs associated with her role as a 9/11 victim.

After 20 years, she still misses Ken, but has found that his advocacy has helped her.

“I can’t change the past, I can’t bring Ken back,” he said.

“Really, the best legacy I can leave for Ken is doing what I’m doing to help others and make changes.”

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