They lost their dads on 9/11, now they’re hus­band and wife

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - OPINION - Michael Smer­con­ish MICHAEL SMER­CON­ISH hosts “Smer­con­ish” on CNN and is a colum­nist for The Philadel­phia In­quirer.

It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that good things can some­times be born of tragedy, es­pe­cially at a time when so many Amer­i­cans are deal­ing with so much ad­ver­sity. Storm sin the South. Wild­fires in the West. A na­tion­wide opi­oid epi­demic. And, of course, Mon­day was the 16th an­niver­sary of 9/11.

On that day, Vic­tor Saracini, 51, was the cap­tain of United F light 175, the air­plane that hi­jack­ers di­rected into the South Tower of the World Trade Cen­ter. Inside that build­ing, on the 84th floor, Patrick McGuire, 40, was work­ing at Euro Bro­kers Inc. His plan to evac­u­ate had been in­ter­rupted by an an­nounce­ment that the sit­u­a­tion was un­der con­trol.

Each man left be­hind a wife and chil­dren — the Saraci­nis have two daugh­ters, the McGuires have two sons and two daugh­ters.

On Sept. 9, Vic­tor Saracini’s youngest daugh­ter, Brielle, and Patrick’s McGuire’s old­est son, Sean, wed in Austin, Texas, in front of a gath­er­ing that in­cluded their moth­ers, Ellen Saracini and Danielle McGuire. It’s the sec­ond wed­ding this sum­mer for the Saraci­nis. Brielle’s sis­ter, Kirsten, was mar­ried in June. Ellen Saracini said she is cer­tain that Vic­tor, whom she de­scribes as a “real par­tic­i­pat­ing fa­ther,” would have been thrilled with their daugh­ters’ choices.

“Vic­tor joked that he had an ap­pli­ca­tion to date our daugh­ters,” said Ellen Saracini, whom I met while she was help­ing cre­ate the Gar­den of Re­flec­tion in Bucks County to re­mem­ber the vic­tims of 9/11.“He teased about how any­one who would date his daugh­ters first needs to fill it out, and pass in his opin­ion, with 100 per­cent. I men­tioned this at both of my girls’ wed­dings, and also told both of my sons-in-law that they didn’t have to worry, they were preap­proved!”

Nev­er­the­less, Saracini said she felt a great void not hav­ing Vic­tor at her side, not shar­ing a cry and a smile or watch­ing her hus­band walk­ing his daugh­ters down the aisle be­fore com­ing to stand next to her as the girls pro­fessed their love and com­mit­ment to two “won­der­ful” men.

“I won­dered what would be his last words to his un­mar­ried lit­tle girls,” she said. “There are no words to truly ex­press the mul­ti­tude of emo­tions, but as you look at the smiles on the girls’ faces, as you feel the love of this young cou­ple and all those at­tend­ing, you can­not help but feel love in your heart, and that is what Vic­tor and I al­ways wanted for our girls.”

For Brielle Saracini, the day was “in­evitable.”

“It felt like a fairy tale — a dream wed­ding that was ab­so­lutely per­fect, des­tined by fate,” she said.

And the miss­ing fathers were never far from any­one’s thoughts.

“We had a nice mo­ment of si­lence in our cer­e­mony to rec­og­nize their pres­ence in our re­la­tion­ship and in our lives,” Brielle said. “It was im­por­tant for us to do so, to prop­erly honor them and pay re­spects to how they raised us and shaped us. I also wanted to keep a seat open for my dad, so I placed his cap­tain hat on a seat in the front row.”

Brielle and Sean were only 10 years old when they lost their fathers. They met as kids at Camp Bet­ter Days in New Jersey, es­tab­lished by Amy Cal­la­han, who lost her fi­ancé on 9/11, to pro­vide sup­port for the chil­dren who lost a par­ent that day.

“We met two years after 9/11, just kids who used to hang out to­gether and match up against one an­other in pool and bas­ket­ball, who even­tu­ally fell in love,” Brielle said.

Re­mem­brance of 9/11 is ever-present in their re­la­tion­ship and was even the sub­ject of a ref­er­ence in her vows to Sean:

“The big­gest take away from 9/11 for me was that you might be able to break down steel and struc­ture, but you can never de­stroy love,” she said in the ser­vice. “I would spend my weeks at camp with you, fall­ing in love with you more and more with each day we spent to­gether, wish­ing our nights stargaz­ing would never end. We grew up to­gether, shap­ing each other, learn­ing from each other, and ground­ing one an­other.”

Now 16 years later, Sean is a CPA and Brielle works for Yes Net­work in pro­mo­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately, their plan to hon­ey­moon in Charleston, South Carolina, was in­ter­rupted by the re­cent storms, which forced them to “bounce around Austin and fig­ure out Plan B.” No worry. They’ve dealt with far worse. In Brielle’s case, that in­volves not only los­ing her dad but also over­com­ing cancer.

Vic­tor Saracini was sadly missed at both his daugh­ters’ wed­dings, and yet his pres­ence was felt.

“I feel the void,” Ellen Saracini said. “Vic­tor is not here to­day, Vic­tor will not walk his daugh­ter down the aisle, there will be no fa­ther-daugh­ter dance. Vic­tor will not be beam­ing with joy and pride for his great­est ac­com­plish­ment, his daugh­ters. He will not ex­pe­ri­ence Kirsten’s and Brielle’s hap­pi­est day. He will not be hold­ing my hand, looking into my eyes, smil­ing with me. Un­less I be­lieve.

“The weather sur­round­ing Kirsten’s wed­ding day was cold and rainy, but on the day she mar­ried, it was sunny and warm, not a cloud in the sky, just con trails paint­ing the blue. When we ar­rived in Austin it was muggy and hot, but for the days of the guests com­ing to cel­e­brate it was un­sea­son­ably cool and pleas­ant, just to re­turn to hot and muggy once it was over. He was there; you just need to look for the signs. No hand to hold, but I smile and feel him in my heart.”

Brie ll ea nd Sean didn’ t de­lib­er­ately pick a week­end that co­in­cided with a 9/11 an­niver­sary for their mar­riage. Nor did they shy away from it.

“We made a dec­la­ra­tion to each other, and in do­ing so, we made a state­ment against those who tried to hurt us,” Brielle said. “Love truly con­quers all.”

“The big­gest take­away from 9/11 for me was that you might be able to break down steel and struc­ture but you can never de­stroy love.” Brielle Saracini in her mar­riage vows

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