Love Stories: Karen Juday and Rich Pecorella
While attending an IndyCar race at Nazareth Speedway in Pennsylvania, Karen Juday sat down next to a New Yorker named Richard Pecorella, soon to be the love of her life.
In the summer of 2001, Brielle Saracini and her family rented a beach house in New Jersey. She remembers how she and her father, Victor Saracini, spent the weekend alone riding his motorcycle down to Atlantic City and walking the beach, picking up mussels to later steam in the kitchen. While the mussels cooked, she also remembers listening to music, writing down the lyrics to songs, while her father played along on his guitar.
Weeks later, on September 11, 2001, 10-year-old Brielle was in fifth grade in her hometown of Yardley, Pennsylvania. As her classmates began being picked up by their parents after hearing about the attacks in New York City, Brielle was called down to the principal’s office. When she arrived, Brielle’s teacher took her and her best friend outside to explain what was happening. Brielle’s father, Victor J. Saracini, was the Captain of United Airlines Flight 175, the plane that had struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
Immediately after the attacks, Brielle recalls being surrounded by compassion and support from her community. In an oral history recorded at the Museum, Brielle said, “I was very fortunate to have a wonderful group of friends and wonderful people in the school, whether or not they were friends or not, but just supportive.” In the months afterward, Brielle would also find support through new relationships. Watching sports, especially baseball games, provided comfort shortly after 9/11.
A friend suggested she attempt to accomplish her lifelong dream of meeting New York Yankee’s shortstop, Derek Jeter, so Brielle wrote him a letter. That letter quickly found its way into his hands, and in late September, Jeter invited the Saracinis to be his guests at Yankee Stadium where they met the team and watched a game. “Just being around [the team] made us feel at home and made us feel comforted. And it was the first time we felt truly happy since everything had happened,” Brielle recalls. That special bond with Jeter and other members of the Yankees staff has endured throughout the years.
Brielle also became involved in two organizations—Tuesdays Children and Camp Better Days—that brought together children who lost loved ones on 9/11. Being able to bond with kids who had experienced the same loss helped Brielle through her grieving process. Among those she met was Cait Leavey whose father, FDNY Lt. Joseph Gerard Leavey, was killed while responding to the attacks. Cait and Brielle participated in community service trips together with Tuesday’s Children. She also met her future husband, Sean McGuire, at Camp Better Days where they often played against each other in basketball. Brielle and Sean remain involved with Camp Better Days to provide support for the younger generations as they grieve the losses of their loved ones. During her wedding service, Brielle said, “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.”
Beginning on September 10, 2021, Brielle will share her story, along with five other speakers, as part of this year’s sixth annual Anniversary in the Schools webinar. Register for this free program here.
The webinar is made possible thanks to generous support from The New York Life Foundation.
By Julianne Oroukin, Assistant Manager of School and Teacher Programs, 9/11 Memorial & Museum