By Sutton Eaves
Erica Basnicki smiles sadly to herself as a blue jay lands on her feet and hops around, kicking up the first fallen leaves of the season. The small bird makes one last quiet ‘tweet’ before flying off into the direction of the sun, taking with it Erica’s last hopes of seeing her father again. “My mom keeps thinking that my dad is visiting in the form of a blue jay. I seems like I see them everywhere these days … and I wonder if it really is my dad.”
On Saturday, Basnicki said an official farewell to her father, Ken, who was on the 106th floor of the World Trade Centre when it was struck by a hijacked plane. Her family hasn’t heard from him since. And so, a celebration of his life was held on Saturday at St. Mary’s Church, near their family cottage in Collingwood.
“It was beautiful. We had over 500 people, and it wasn’t a very large church. People were standing all the way along the sides, and there was an upper loft they filled too. People even had to be placed in a side room with a video monitor to see what was going on. It was the best tribute to my dad – way beyond my expectations.”
In memory of their friend and fellow rider, members of the Blue Mountain Riding Club led a procession of glimmering Harley Davidson’s from the church to the family home. On that sunny afternoon, police blocked off main roads and saluted as more than 500 loved ones made their way to the family cottage. Basnicki, her mother, Maureen, and her brother, Brennan, stood at the front door for more than two hours as they greeted a line of friends and family that extended past the front lawn and down into the street.
“It really was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen,” said Basnicki, a third-year Ryerson journalism student. A PA system was set up at the reception, and many guests gave “60-second memories” of Ken while the rest of the group listened. A slide presentation was also held in his memory, but Basnicki said that was something she wanted to watch alone. But while she thought being alone would help her adjust, Basnicki said it’s proving to be the hardest part of the healing process.
“This is really the time where I need people the most. I was being the strong person, for my mom’s sake, but now I’m back at my apartment alone. And you aren’t doing anything, you start thinking…and the next thing you know, I’m just sitting there, not moving, tears streaming down my face, saying ‘Oh my God, how am I going to get over this?”