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. Storms in 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 Flight 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 younger daughter, Brielle, and Patrick McGuire's older 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, last Saturday 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."
The meeting of Brielle and Sean was hardly a coincidence. Each was only 10 years old when they lost their father. 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 takeaway 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, S.C., 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 contrails 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."
Brielle and Sean didn't deliberately pick a weekend that coincided with a 9/11 anniversary for their marriage, but 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."