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My friend Bonnie
By Francis Misquita, Edmonton, Canada


Sept. 11, 2001 will go down in history as a "black day" when thousands of innocent lives were lost, as a result of a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My friend Bonnie (Bernard Mascarenhas) is on the list of the missing people which numbers more than 5000. Bonnie was previously from Karachi, staying on Somerset Street and then later in Hussain D'silva Town in Nazimabad.

I first met Bonnie in 1964 in our first year pre-engineering, at St. Patrick's college - a happy bunch of enthusiastic kids, just out of school, aspiring to be engineers of the future. I recall we were a very large contingent of Catholic boys - Edward D'Sa, Lionel D'souza, Noel Pinto, Vincent Gonsalves, Ronald Raymond, John Barrie, Maurice Aranha, Emmanuel Raphael, Francis Phen, Michael Castellino and Patrick Pillai.

My apologies for the others whose names I just cannot recall at this time. I took an instant liking to Bonnie, and we maintained our friendship over all these years. Bonnie was one of the "smart dudes" at college and excelled in all subjects especially science and math. I was always shortof money and Bonnie would always treat me to ' coke and patties" during the recess. Those were the good days, playing hokey in the less interesting classes especially Urdu, was very common amongst some of our

Catholic boys. Iqbal Restaurant was our favorite spot, where boys would hang around and watch the girls walk by from St. Joseph's School and College. After completing junior college, Bonnie was accepted to the more prestigious Adamjee Science College, while some of us went to SM Science College. We still maintained our contacts - meeting for tea at Jehangir or Iqbal restaurant, going for a matinee move, or studying late evenings and nights at his house just prior to writing the exams. If I recall correctly, a few years later I met Bonnie when he was teaching for a brief period in St. Paul's school my Alma Mater. He then joined Habib Bank and quickly worked his way up in the computer field, and then went to Bahrain excelling himself in the field of information technology.

Bonnie migrated to Canada in 1978. He was working for Marsh Canada Ltd.,a large insurance brokerage house, and once again with his hard work and excellence, he moved up the corporate ladder very quickly. When I was in Montreal, he visited me a few times, whenever he came on a business trip and we used to reminisce about the good old times we all had back home. The last time I met Bonnie was about two years ago, when I had gone on a business trip to Toronto. We both had very busy schedules that day, but we made it a point to meet for lunch. I still picture him clearly saying our good-byes in the parking lot, and hoping we would meet soon again. Last year he phoned me at Christmas time, suggesting that I come with the family and spend some time with his family in Toronto.

The day of the disaster, when I was watching CNN news, the name of the company Bonnie worked for Marsh Macllenan (the US office) was mentioned. I just prayed silently hoping that Bonnie was not on another business trip to the New York office. I wanted to call him at home, but I said to myself this cannot be true, and it is just my imagination. Two days later, I got the dreadful news that his wife Raynette and the kids were taken to New York by the company officials. I made a few calls to Montreal and Toronto that night, but could not get any confirmed news about him. Early next morning, I decided to call his office in Toronto.

The secretary picked up the phone, I told her that I was a very close friend of Bernard, and wanted to get an update on him. I could fee her voice choking, as she said he was on the missing list, and that his wife and family were taken to New York. At that time I just cried and choked, the lady at the other end said, " I am so sorry to give you the bad news". I thanked her, said I was okay, and quickly hung the phone up. A few days later I visited the CNN website that had the pictures of the missing people and I kept starring at Bonnie's picture for a few minutes, and kept asking the question "Why Bonnie?" I called out to my wife and my two girls showing them the picture of my missing friend. I was later told that Bonnie, who worked out of the Toronto office, was scheduled to attend a breakfast meeting that ill-fated morning of Sept 11, 2001 in the World Trade center.

To me Bonnie was a friend and brother. A man of such great stature, but yet humble and down to earth person. Once when visiting Toronto, I reminded him of the 'coke and patties", he used to buy for me at the college canteen. His answer in humility as always was he just felt it was right to share what he had with others, whether it was baying me a coke, or helping others with school assignments. There are very few in this world that are the likes of my friend Bonnie, who has had such a great positive impact on my personal life, and the life of others that he touched upon. Just to quote what his son Sven had to say when delivering the eulogy at a memorial service in Toronto: " Although he told me to always value my formal education, it will be the things he taught me that I'll hold most dear. He taught me the meaning of humility, taught me to never rub my successes in the face of others. He lived his life by that credo to the point that many of his closest friends had no idea just how successful he was in his professional life". How very true !!! I met Bonnie on so many occasion, we both worked in information technology, but it's only after reading the eulogy, I came to know that my friend had risen to the rank of Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Marsh Canada.

Another quota from Sven's eulogy "He may have lived in Canada, but he never forgot nor let us forget our roots. His active role in our community, always trying to help someone out when they fell on difficult times".

Bonnie, you sure make me feel proud and that I can say to myself and to others that I had the good fortune of being associated with you. This tragic loss is very difficult for me to endure, and often at times I wish by some miracle, he and several others are found alive in the rubble of what is left of the two majestic tows that once graced the skylights of New York City.

In conclusion, I would like to offer my since condolences to his wife Raynette, their children Sven and Jaclyn, to his mother, his sister, his brother, and all his other friends and relatives, that the good Lord gives them the courage and strength to bear just a great loss. Adios Bonnie, till we meet again for coke and patties in a college canteen in Paradise - this time it will be my treat !!!.

 

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