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Brother of 9/11 victim speaks out after five years

By Jason Carroll
CNN
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BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Any journalist will tell you one of the toughest parts of the job is having to interview someone who has lost a loved one. There's simply no easy way to ask questions about coping with the loss.

Interviewing Mike Bavis was going to be especially challenging. Mike said he didn't feel comfortable talking about his identical twin Mark, who died on United Airlines Flight 175. The plane was heading from Boston to Los Angeles when it crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Mike had never done an in-depth interview in the five years since that day.

"Quite honestly, I wasn't interested in maybe telling them how I'm doing five years later," Mike said. "Anyone who's experienced a loss has a hole in their life and that hole is there forever."

So why did he finally agree to talk? He said it was out of frustration about the way the federal government has handled security before and after 9/11.

After meeting Mike, I got the sense he's not the kind of person who easily shares his feelings, whether it be frustration, anger or sadness. It's all there, but it's in his eyes, and very often that kind of emotion doesn't read well on camera.

I noticed it when I asked him about what meant the most to him about his twin brother. There was a long pause while Mike struggled to hold back his emotions and finally said he holds those memories close to his heart.

It was a very powerful moment and it said so much about Mike. But I knew the impact on camera would not be as strong as it was in person.

As a journalist, you want to give the facts and convey the emotion of a moment, because it is often the emotion that draws viewers into the story and makes them listen.

Mike agreed to the interview because he wants people to challenge the federal government, specifically the Transportation Security Administration, to take more of a proactive approach to fighting terrorism.

He also wants the TSA to be more open about how it's fighting the threat of terrorism, beyond screening at airports.

The longer Mike and I talked, the more he opened up to me. He told me that he and Mark played hockey together for much of their lives. The two even played together at Boston University -- both were forwards. Jack Parker, their former coach and a twin himself, said sometimes he had to check Mike's right ear to tell the twins apart because Mike had a freckle there that Mark didn't have.

You always hear about how alike identical twins are, so I wanted to know how Mike was different from his brother. This proved to be another emotionally challenging question for Mike. Again, his face was stoic, but seeing him in person you could read how deep his feelings were.

Mike is married with two children and working as an assistant hockey coach at B.U. I respect him for having the courage to speak and for sharing, in the best way he could, his brother's story in hopes of motivating people to be more involved in how the government handles security.


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Jason Carroll interviews Mike Bavis, whose brother Mark was killed in the 9/11 attacks.

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