On the Loss of a Twin Brother
Hockey coach Mike Bavis recalls Mark, killed September 11
It’s the time of year that Michael Bavis has come to dread. “The late summer, early September is difficult because you get caught off guard by an article. You think, here we go. It’s starting again,” says Bavis (CAS’93), BU men’s hockey associate head coach. “It’s emotionally draining.”
On September 11, 2001, 10 years ago this Sunday, Bavis’ identical twin, Mark (CAS’93), boarded United Airlines Flight 175 to Los Angeles, where he worked as a scout for the National Hockey League’s Los Angeles Kings. The hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center’s south tower that morning, killing him and all others onboard. He was just 31.
Seated in his office at Agganis Arena on a recent afternoon, Mike Bavis looks out his window and quietly acknowledges that he lost his best friend that day. “From hockey to baseball to trips to the Cape, we were always side by side in all those experiences,” he says. “That’s what makes being a twin so cool.”
The brothers grew up in Roslindale, Mass., the youngest in a family with eight children. Their childhood was defined by hockey. They began skating at age four and were soon shooting pucks into a regulation hockey net their father, a retired police officer, had given them. The brothers went on to play hockey at Catholic Memorial High School, where Mark was named a Boston Globe and Boston Herald All-Scholastic.
“I think he was ultra-competitive,” says Mike. “And in our game, there’s a premium on that. Hockey in particular seems to reward players who have that need to win. And he certainly had that.”
Both brothers played at BU, where twice they shared the Bennett McInnis Award for Team Spirit. The Terriers advanced to the NCAA Tournament all four years they were on the team and won three Beanpot titles and one Hockey East Championship. “Growing up, we probably fed off competing against one another,” says Mike. “That made us better at our sport. But we were always pulling for each other.”
After college, Mark played in the American Hockey League as a ninth-round draft pick for the New York Rangers. He and Mike later became teammates, playing for the South Carolina Stingrays. Then Mark worked as an assistant coach at Brown and Harvard before joining the Los Angeles Kings, where he was responsible for U.S. amateur drafts. “He really enjoyed it,” Mike recalls. “He got to work with some great people.”
Mark also made the most of his life outside of work, Mike says. He loved to take his nephews and nieces to the beach or golfing or fishing. “He was somebody who always loved to have fun, to be at the center of a group,” he says, smiling. “My brother didn’t lack for a lot of life in his 31 years. He squeezed a lot into it, and he had a lot of good friends. So we choose to think about the good times.
“What we lost is the expectation of what life was going to continue to be for Mark…it was going to be pretty special; it was going to be pretty cool. He would have been a part of my kids’ lives, and I would have been a part of his kids’ lives.” Mike’s oldest child was only four months old when Mark was killed.
Mike was in Calgary, Alberta, recruiting for the Terrier hockey team the morning of 9/11, when his wife called to say that something had happened at the World Trade Center. “My immediate concern was, where are you? Where are the kids? Even though it was New York, I had an immediate sense that this was something dramatic and big and that I needed to get home.” A short time later, he got another call, this time from one of his older brothers. “He asked, ‘Have you heard from Mark?’ and I said, ‘No, why?’” His brother told him that Mark was scheduled to fly out of Boston that day. “I had this sense that I knew right then,” he says. A phone call from the LA Kings general manager confirmed his worst fear: Mark had been on United Flight 175.
“Every day, we try to think about the good times,” Mike says. “That’s helped us.” His parents’ strong religious faith, which he says they instilled in each of their children, has helped as well. Then there’s been the support of the hockey community. “We’re really lucky in hockey that we have so many genuine, real people who care. Because of how close those relationships are, they also continue to support my family.” A decade later, he says, he’s still astonished by the impact his brother’s death continues to have on the friends he left behind. “I’m taken aback sometimes by how much his close friends still struggle. He had that kind of close bond with so many of his friends.”
The BU community, too, has been a source of comfort and support. “There are a lot of really genuine people here, and I don’t mean just in Athletics,” he says. “People who really care about knowing what happened and making sure they haven’t forgotten. And that’s something I don’t forget.”
In the months following Mark’s death, the Bavis family established a foundation to honor his memory. The Mark Bavis Leadership Foundation awards scholarships of $3,500 to $5,000 to Massachusetts high school students who have made a difference in their communities or demonstrated leadership at their schools. The foundation honors Mark’s role as mentor to the many young men and women who sought his advice about sports, academics, and careers.
“Mark was the type of person who wanted to do for others,” Mike says, “so he would have been proud of the foundation.” Funded in part by an annual celebrity golf tournament, the foundation has awarded grants to at least 50 students since its inception.
The Bavis family is bracing for the trial in November of the wrongful death suit they have brought against United Airlines and the painful memories it’s likely to summon. The Bavises are the only family of a 9/11 victim not to have either settled a lawsuit or accepted compensation from a special fund established by Congress. The family has asked a judge to allow them to recover damages not only for Mark’s death, but for the pain and suffering he endured during the last 21 minutes of his life.
“We never felt that there’s been a full disclosure of the facts that led to this being achieved so easily,” Mike Bavis says. “These were not 19 special forces who tactically took over some plane. They breezed on like any other passenger. It was very, very preventable, and we think it’s very important, if our government isn’t going to say that, then at the least there should be full disclosure of what took place.” He says the suit is not a crusade against the airline. “My mother would have walked away from all this a long time ago if there had been an honest disclosure of what led to these failures.” He acknowledges that pursuing the legal case has taken a toll. Still, he says, his family never considered settling.
In the meantime, there is another anniversary to endure. On Sunday, Mike Bavis will gather with his family for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Boston Public Garden and a ceremony at the Massachusetts State House. It is how the family has chosen to commemorate each of the anniversaries.
Asked how he hopes the brother he still calls “Marky” will be remembered, Mike replies, “The way he is remembered: as a good friend, a loyal friend. Somebody his family and friends could count on.”
A list of the BU alumni killed on 9/11 is here.8 Comments