M. Tawsif Salam
11 September, 2009, Dhaka
Immediately after the horrible 9/11 attacks, the perception about Bangladeshi fatalities was that at least 50 of our countrymen have been missing in the rubles, dead or else. Watching the twin towers of the World Trade Center emitting smokes almost like two sky-scrapping chimneys, initially very few people overseas were concerned about knowing how much people of what nationalities have been victims, apart from those who knowingly had family members, coworkers or friends working in New York’s Lower Manhattan that day.
People of approximately 60 nationalities were among the victims. The initial perception of around 50 Bangladeshis killed was later corrected as there were 12 Bangladeshi victims documented. Now this information too ain’t assuring as there were talks that there could be some Bangladeshis working around but ‘not documented’, might have been in terms of legal measures. This means disappointment, that the actual number of how many Bangladeshis were killed in 11 September 2001 attacks won’t be known ever.
For someone looking for stuffs about the Bangladeshi victims of 9/11, the initial disgust will be offered by the authority of Bangladesh, that’s our government. Throughout a staggering hunt for information about brothers & sisters we lost that day, one will completely fail to get something that can be thought is given or provided by any agencies or departments of Bangladesh government. It’s understandable that during the attack the administration at home was to execute a general election of nearly 70 million voters, so it couldn’t respond at once. But not only years passed rather it’s being almost a decade after a number of Bangladeshi deaths overseas, we rarely found any of our government people to pronounce a word about it or to provide at least some statistics. It can be that we ain’t keen enough to get them so they ain’t keen enough to provide.
Among 12 confirmed Bangladeshis who were killed on September 11, 2001 there are Mohammad Sadeque Ali, Shabbir Ahmed, Nurul Haque Miah, Nurul’s wife Shakila Yasmin, Mohammad Shahjahan, Mohammed Salahuddin Chowdhury, Abul Kashem Chowdhury, Navid Hossain, Osman Ghani and Ashfaq Ahmed. As the Bangladesh High Commission at United States has a confirmation of 12 victims, definitely there are two more names those I’ve failed to mention here. However all the mentioned 10 were the citizens of United States of America and except Ashfaq Ahmed, Navid Hossain & Osman Ghani, I can provide at least something about seven others.
Mohammad Sadeque Ali
Mohammad Sadeque Ali, 62, according to a former Bangladeshi diplomat Syed Muazzem Ali, was a newspaper vendor. He lived in New York’s Jackson Heights with his wife Mumtaz. During the attack Ali was at Lower Manhattan presumably somewhere too-close-to or inside the World Trade Center and was later never found.
Shabbir Ahmed, 47, worked in the famous ‘Windows on The World’ restaurant on the 106th floor of the WTC North Tower. Migrated to US from Bangladesh in 1981, he loved the job he had in ‘Windows on The World’ and he stayed there for 11 years. Ahmed was married to Jeba and the couple had three children. Ahmed became able to meet his dream of sending all of them for college education. At the time of Ahmed’s death, a son named Tanvir was 16-year old and a daughter that went to Brooklyn College were 19-year old. The family’s home is at Marine Park, Brooklyn, New York. At the time a plane penetrated the tower, Ahmed was at work in his beloved workplace with 89 other coworkers including Mohammed Salahuddin Chowdhury, another Bangladeshi employee in there, reportedly were serving 76 guests; none of the people survived.
Mohammad Shahjahan, 41, lived with his wife Mansura at Spring Valley, a neighborhood at the border of towns Ramapo and Clarkstown at Rockland County, New York. He was a Computer Administrator in the professional service provider & insurance brokerage farm Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. (MMC)., which held offices between floors 93 & 100, the ultimate impact zone of the attack. 295 employees including Shahjahan and two other Bangladeshis, Nurul Haque Miah & Shakila Yasmin, were working at MMC at the time of attack; among them nobody survived.
Abul Kashem Chowdhury
Abul Kashem Chowdhury, 30, was 2nd generation Bangladeshi-American, child of a former Bangladeshi diplomat. He resided in New York with his family of his wife, parents, a brother and two sisters. A College of Staten Island graduate, Chowdhury was about to pursue a career on computer expertise, which even he had one at financial services farm Cantor Fitzgerald L.P. as a Senior Assistant Analyst. His brother Abul Qaiser Chowdhury said that he and his brother worked to support their family; have been like two arms to their loved ones. During the attack Chowdhury was on the 103rd floor, who even called his brother after the plane made the hit and he was approaching to come down, but the communication was tragically brief and everything was finished in hours. Months before the attack Chowdhury got married to Young Kim, a 2nd generation Korean-American. Kim, remarking his husband as a ‘devoted moviegoer’, was about to go to movies with him after work on the fateful day.
Mohammed Salahuddin Chowdhury
Mohammed Salahuddin Chowdhury, 38, was a Queens, New York resident where he lived with his wife Baraheen Ashrafi. Salahuddin, a Dhaka University physics graduate, migrated to US in 1987. In US he studied real-estate and also obtained a diploma in Computer Science. Initially he worked in Baltimore but later came to New York for something better would come up. He decided to stay in New York in anyways so he started working in the famous ‘Windows on The World’ restaurant as a waiter. Salahuddin & Baraheen had a 6-year old boy. In the time of attacks Baraheen was pregnant and was due to operate at late hours of the fateful date. In fact Salahuddin usually attended the work in evening hours but that day chose to serve in the morning so that he could stay with his wife to the operation. Farqad Chowdhury, born 48-hours after deadly attack took away his father with 88 other coworkers, has been perhaps one of the first 9/11 orphans to be born. HBO’s 9/11 documentary “In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11/01” has covered the tragic fate of Salahuddin’s family.
Nurul Haque Miah
Nurul Haque Miah, 35, was born in Bangladesh to an immensely pious family in 1966. A mid-80s immigrant to US, Nurul started working for Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., (MMC) in 1986. In 1999 he married Shakila Yasmin; an early-90s immigrant whom he met in a friend’s wedding in 1995 & dated for 5 years. Nurul had a very good reputation at work & was awarded as recognition of merit in MMC. Nurul studied and had a degree in audiovisual technology, as the final position he had in MMC was an Audiovisual Technologist where he worked for 15 years. Nurul’s workplace was on the 93rd floor. But during the attack he was in a meeting on the 99th floor, while his wife Shakila, also an MMC employee, was on the 97th floor; MMC was a tenant holding 8 floors from 93rd to 100th. To mention, all these floors got the worst impact after the plane made hit especially the floors 93th-99th through where the plane actually penetrated, let as assume Nurul and his wife to be two of the very initial victims of the deadly attack.
Shakila Yasmin, 26, wife of Nurul Haque Miah, went to US with her parents Sharif A. Chowdhury and Shawkat Ara Sharif when she was 16. She did her S.S.C in Bangladesh and in US got admitted in Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. Obtaining US citizenship in the sixth year of stay, she graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1999 with a degree of Management Information Systems. As told before, she was married to Nurul Haque Miah in 1999, joined her husband’s workplace MMC as a Computer Assistant one year prior to the deadly attack. She was on the 93rd floor when the first plane penetrated the building.
Renaming Brooklyn Streets after Shakila and Nurul
Nurul and Shakila lived in Brooklyn, New York and they had a very good relationship with the neighbors. One of their neighbors Diane Hunt, touched by her neighbors’ tragic deaths, took an initiative to propose renaming of the street in Brooklyn in names of Shakila and Nurul, took the matter to the city council. At her proposition and consent from the fellow councilors, the Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg (world’s 8th richest man, the Republican politician who owns Bloomberg L.P) passed a bill 746-A on 29 December, 2005 that renamed a total 67 streets of New York, including the Evington Avenue and the Third Avenue in Brooklyn those got the new name “Shakila Yasmin & Nurul Haque Miah 9-11 Memorial Way”. Mayor Bloomberg, fellow New Yorker Hunt and others who consented in paying respect to our fallen countrymen are yet to receive gratitude officially from Bangladesh. You know we have a lot of real works to do than just go thanking people like recently dead Senator Ted Kennedy who was singled out in US Senate just for talking for Bangladesh in 1971, or the Jewish NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg who honored Bangladesh by naming streets whereas he could choose from people of 59 other nationalities.