Families persevere 10 years after 9/11 took L.A. Kings scouts
In his official Kings photo, Mark Bavis smiles confidently, his blue eyes gazing toward a boundless future.
After one season as a scout, he was on track for success, combing the U.S. and colleges while capitalizing on his many contacts. He loved his work and his colleagues. Dave Taylor, who was the Los Angeles Kings’ general manager and hired him after several recommendations, called him a new style of scout, fluent in many sides of the business.
Mark Bavis might have become the team’s scouting director. More likely, he would have turned to coaching. He loved coaching.
“He had a quiet personality but was very focused, very professional,” Taylor said. “He had a tremendous future, whatever avenue he was going to go down.”
That future was taken from him 10 years ago Sunday.
Mark Bavis and veteran scout Garnet “Ace” Bailey, as charming as he was skilled at evaluating talent, were heading to Los Angeles for training camp aboard United Flight 175 when it became the second hijacked aircraft steered by terrorists into the World Trade Center. Their deaths tore holes in the hearts of two loving families.
“You don’t know the day that’s going to be a hard day for you,” said Mike Bavis, Mark Bavis’ identical twin and associate head hockey coach at their alma mater, Boston University.
“The families I know and my family, I think they’ve moved on to be very productive and not dwelling in grief, but it doesn’t mean it’s not still hard.”
Barbara Pothier, sister of Ace Bailey’s wife, Katherine, said the 53-year-old Bailey was the heartbeat of their clan, a captivating storyteller. A big kid.
“I grew up in a family of nine children, and when Ace married Kathy, he became every bit a brother to all of us,” Pothier said. “Not a brother-in-law, a brother. We were all extremely close to Ace.”
Inspired by love, the Bavises and Baileys determined to honor their lost loved ones. The Mark Bavis Leadership Foundation provides mentoring and college scholarships to kids. The Ace Bailey Foundation renovated the neonatal intensive care unit at the Floating Hospital for Children at Boston’s Tufts Medical Center and brightened the environment for families of ailing kids. Diminishing donations nearly closed the foundation in 2008, but Pothier, its executive director, and Katherine Bailey felt their work wasn’t done.
“When we go to the hospital and see the people using the facilities that we’ve built, it’s really rewarding,” Pothier said, “and we know when we’re looking at it that Ace’s spirit is in that. Ace would love what we’d done. And so out of bad comes good.”
The Bavises want more than to perpetuate good deeds in Mark Bavis’ name. They want justice for his death, and they stand alone in pursuing a civil lawsuit related to the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Bavises filed a wrongful-death suit against United and Huntleigh USA, a security company that staffed the checkpoint at Boston’s Logan Airport. The trial is scheduled for November.
There were 5,560 claims filed with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which dispensed more than $7 billion to victims and their families on the condition that they would not file lawsuits. Other victims and families filed suits but settled before trial.
The Bavises refused to settle, traveling an emotionally rutted road to learn why Mark died.
“It’s the very basic principle of right and wrong and accountability,” Mike Bavis said. “For my family, we’ve never been able to get past the point of moving forward on the level of accountability and exposure as to what the facts were regarding this event. If you don’t expose the fact and let the information out, you just enable the next company, the next industry, to be grossly negligent and then claim ignorance.”
Mike Bavis said a “dramatic” amount of information about threats existed before 9/11, contradicting arguments that the attacks were unimaginable. “For there to be inaction on the airlines’ part was nothing more than negligence based on a profit motive,” he said.
“Our hope is that the legal system still can work the way it was meant. It’s unacceptable that my brother had to spend the last 21 minutes of his life in the type of situation that he had to. It’s unacceptable, given what we believe was known prior to 9/11 and the inaction by the airlines and the security companies. It’s what motivated us to stay strong through this test of will.”
He said his family has support from other 9/11 families, some of whom he said were “broken down by the process” and settled. “They have a right to know why this happened so easily. And right now my family is providing that for them,” he said.
Pothier understands why the Bavises continued and others did not.
“A lot of the other families had little children that needed to be supported, and the Bavises, having a large extended family, could continue and fight for that, and they feel very strongly about it,” she said. “And I have to hand it to them because it’s very wearing.
“I wish them good luck with it. I hope whatever the outcome is that they will find some peace with that.”
That the Bavises stood on principle doesn’t surprise Kings scout Stephen Greeley, who has known them since he was 7 and idolized the twins before he was coached by them at the youth and college levels.
“They’re fighting for something they really believe in,” Greeley said. “This isn’t about just the money to them. I think there’s a big picture here.”
The portrait of Mark Bavis on the wall in the Kings’ offices always stirs Greeley, who has much the same duties as Bavis did. Greeley’s uncle coached the twins in high school; his father played golf with Mark Bavis a week before that terrible day. Greeley said his younger brother, Jack, cherishes a handwritten note from Mark Bavis that offered advice in choosing a college, a gesture both typical and classy because Jack Greeley wasn’t NHL material and Mark Bavis gained nothing professionally from it.
“It’s not just a 9/11 face to me. It’s the face of a guy that was so good to me, so good to my family, that I do think about him quite a bit,” said Greeley, who attended Mark Bavis’ funeral and participates in the annual golf tournament that funds the foundation. “Mark was such a unique person.”
On Sunday the Bavises will gather in Boston. “That’s where we feel we should be,” Mike Bavis said. The extended Bailey family will visit a monument in Boston’s Public Garden, and one of Ace Bailey’s nieces, 20-year-old Sarah Pothier, will sing at a service at the State House. They’ll return to suburban Lynnfield, where Ace and Kathy Bailey had lived in the same house since 1972 and where Kathy Bailey will speak at a memorial ceremony.
“We miss him so much,” Barbara Pothier said. “One of the redeeming things is, as incredibly devastated as we all were to lose the life-center of our family, you can’t feel sad for too long without somebody mentioning a story or a little quip and we’re all hysterical laughing. Ace’s comedy and humor and good cheer are in us all now.”
Those graces have resurfaced in Evan Garnet Bailey, the 2-year-old son of Ace and Kathy Bailey’s son, Todd.
“He’s adorable, and he’s the apple of my sister Katherine’s eye,” Pothier said. “He doesn’t look like Ace, but he certainly has his qualities.”
Someday he will learn about his grandfather and Mark Bavis, and he will be better for it.
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