Osama bin Laden’s death has provided closure for some victims of 9/11, but for one former Fort Greene resident, it won’t erase the pain of losing a family member.
Ruth Harris lived with her daughter, Isis, in a brownstone on Dekalb Ave., between S. Portland Ave. and S. Oxford St., when the attacks took place. Her niece, Aisha, was the only other girl in the family, and the two children became best friends.
“They were like sisters,” said Harris, who recently moved to Harlem. “They went shopping and talked about boys and planned out their futures together.”
When Aisha was 21, she enrolled at Long Island College and accepted a job at a communications organization. The week before 9/11, she spoke at great length with both Isis and Ruth about what was supposed to be a turning point in her life.
“She was so happy to finally be doing something that she enjoyed doing,” said Harris.
Aisha’s job was on the 28th floor of the World Trade Center. When the attacks occurred, her father immediately rang up Ruth to ask where she was.
“Her dad assumed she had walked across the bridge, and when he told me where she worked, I just lost it,” said Harris. “I had never even asked Aisha where her job was because she was so excited to give me all this information.”
Ruth went over to the house where Aisha lived and grabbed pictures of her, then immediately went downtown to begin searching for her niece.
Weeks went by, but there were no signs and no clues. To this day, Aisha’s body has still not been found.
“The hardest part of all this is that no one had a chance to say goodbye,” said Harris. “The family never did a memorial. Her school did something for the students, but her mother never went because she just couldn’t face that her daughter was going.”
Although Aisha’s death dealt a huge blow to the family, the aftermath was perhaps just as strong. Grieving over a lost family member, Aisha’s brother required professional counseling. Her father lost the motivation to go back to work, while her mother sank into a deep depression.
Unable to cope with the loss, Aisha’s parents ultimately divorced.
“I think it’s hard for people to understand sometimes how one person’s absence can affect a family on so many levels,” said Harris. “We’ve never been the same.”
Harris said that while Bin Laden’s recent killing provides justice, it still doesn’t provide closure.
“I’m glad that a person like Bin Laden is not on this planet,” said Harris. “It still doesn’t bring back Aisha. We still won’t be able to share a lot of memories with this young lady. We knew that good things were going to come from her, but now we’ll never know what they were.”