CHICAGO (CBS) — Twelve years after she lost her husband when terrorists crashed airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a 9/11 widow still remembers her husband’s last words: “I love you.”
WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports Ellen Saracini’s husband, Victor, was the pilot of United Flight 175, which crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Ellen talked to Victor on the phone that morning, their last conversation before the attacks.
“It was September and we had a pool in the back yard and the pool wasn’t closed. So here he was telling me, ‘All right, remember to do this, remember to do that.’ He traveled all the time. I did that stuff all the time,” she said. “His parting words and my parting words were, ‘I love you.’”
She said she’s “really thankful” to have been able to share those final loving words with her husband.
“It could have been that time when you could’ve been having a fight, which happens in relationships. Not that we fought often. It could’ve been just different, and it wasn’t,” she said.
Though she didn’t talk to her husband again before terrorists hijacked the plane and crashed it into the World Trade Center, Ellen knows a little about what happened in the cockpit before it took off, because of what Victor’s co-pilot’s widow told her.
The co-pilot called home from the cockpit.
“So he starts doing his good-morning song. He starts singing in the cockpit to his kids, and Vic says, ‘You better watch out. I’m going to put you on the intercom pretty soon,’” Ellen recalled. “And they were joking around, so I knew the cockpit was a very happy and easy one that morning.”
Ellen said she tells her children, “You can rest assured that God was with Daddy right away; and no matter what happened, it happened quickly.”
Ellen said her husband was known as “The Forrest Gump Captain,” because he knew every line of the film, and when he’d have a plane full of passengers, waiting on the tarmac, frustrated by delays, he’d go into his routine.
“He walked up, looked at this woman and said, ‘Those look like comfortable shoes,’ and started, and he’d just go down the aisle and had everyone hysterical,” she said.
“Sometimes he’d wear great big glasses that made his eyes look really big, and he’d just stand there at the cockpit door and have these glasses on, you know?” Ellen added. “Not that he wasn’t a serious guy. … Other than his family, nobody was more important to Victor than the safety of his crew and his passengers.”
Saracini was in Chicago earlier this month, to ask United Airlines to require secondary barriers for the cockpits of their planes.
She said all commercial airline flights should have a metal barrier in addition to the fortified cockpit door, which she said is often opened during flights.
“When I was flying, I looked outside and I was thinking of my husband. And I said to him, ‘Listen, Vic, I need you here today. I need you to help me have a voice to make sure that what happened to you never happens again,’” she said.
Ellen said United has secondary barriers on some planes, but isn’t inclined to put them on any more, and she wants Congress to mandate such barriers for all airliners.
United has released a statement that says, in part: “Security measures have evolved in the years since the secondary barriers were ordered, and many more layers of security now exist.”
Memorial ceremonies were scheduled throughout the Chicago area to mark the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks; including events at firehouses in Chicago, Evanston, Park Ridge, Skokie, Des Plaines, and Gary, Ind.
A retired military officer who survived the attack on the Pentagon will speak at the Union League Club in the Loop Wenesday morning. Wednesday night in Naperville, an educator will speak about Todd Beamer, one of the passengers on United Flight 93, who took control of the cockpit from terrorists, and prevented it from being flown into the White House on 9/11.