I Like Your Shoes - Local Wisdom

I Like Your Shoes

Brielle Saracini

By Brielle Saracini
Marketing Manager & Strategist

I Like Your Shoes

Once Upon A Time…

I heard a story about my father, a United Airlines Captain, as told to me by one of his colleagues. The story was told by a gentleman named Mr. Morrow, a flight attendant on a few of my dad’s flights. I’d love to share it with you all today as part of our “Stories Worth Sharing” series.

Mr. Morrow’s Story (As Told By Mr. Morrow)

“There’s a side to Victor Saracini that many of you might not know, and I’m here to tell you how I first met him.

Vic was the Captain of a flight from San Francisco that I was working. I met Vic briefly on the aircraft, said a quick hello, and went about my duties prior to boarding. As I was the ticket-taker on the flight, I was in the gate area taking passenger tickets before they boarded. Near the end of the boarding, the agent asked that I go on the plane and tell the captain that there was a long air traffic delay on a flight bound for the NY area.

I walked down the jetway to the plane, stepped into the cockpit, looked at Captain Victor Saracini, and said in my best Forrest Gump impression, “Hey Captain Vic, you know what they say… every flight is like a box of chocolates.” – to which Vic immediately lit up and cut in with the most perfect Gump that I’ve ever heard, saying, “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

I started laughing so hard. Then, while I stood there, he continued in the same Gump impression, dragging it out the way Tom Hanks did. “I like your shoes. I really like those shoes. You know, momma always said you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes. Where they’re from, where they’re going. Why, I bet you’re going to New York City in those shoes.” I couldn’t stop laughing. If you closed your eyes, you’d swear you were watching the movie. Here was this straight-laced, very military-like guy doing Forrest Gump impressions.

It turned out the delay was going to be at least two hours. I looked at Vic and said, “We’ve gotta keep this up. Come with me.” Vic was a good sport as he followed to the back of the plane, wearing his captain hat and looking very much the military officer he was, where most of the flight attendants were coming and going. Vic and I became an instant comedy team.

When a flight attendant entered the galley, I made a comment, in my regular voice, about their shoes. That activated Vic to go off about their shoes in his continuing best Gump impression. The flight attendants all found the joke to be hilarious. Shortly after that, I grabbed a tray of sodas and told Vic that we were going to offer passengers a drink. Every few passengers, I would intentionally step on their shoes and apologize, to which, once again, Vic would go into his Gump impression about their shoes. The passengers were pleasantly taken aback by his impression. We weren’t going anywhere, so we were just having some fun.

Over time, I would come to find out that Vic could do the voices of every single character from the movie, including Lt. Dan, Bubba, the doctor, Mrs. Gump, and even Jenny. Vic knew all the lines as if he had written the screenplay. It was both amazing and amusing.

As is often the case, airline people come and go, and we run into each other like old friends, picking up on a conversation we might have had a year ago. That’s the way it was with Vic. Occasionally, we had the same layover location and had a chance to go for a drink and dinner with the crew. Years went by. I think I knew Vic for two years before I found out from another pilot as to why Vic related to the Forrest Gump character so much. He had been afflicted with an illness that affected his mobility for several years. He was bedridden, and like Gump, he rebounded and persevered. Vic got to the point where he became both a military and commercial pilot. I never told him that I knew that backstory.

The years went by and I didn’t see Vic for a while. However, whenever I heard another flight attendant mention in their briefing that “the captain on the flight is Victor Saracini” then I would say, “When you see Vic, tell him you like his shoes.”

The last time I flew with Vic Saracini was on September 4, 2001. Vic was flying the trip from Chicago back to Newark. We had a few minutes to catch up, and he told me about how ‘his girls’ were doing and about a recent vacation.

We said goodbye on the crew bus, never knowing it would be the last time.”


Brielle’s Perspective (My Thoughts)

My dad, Captain Victor J. Saracini, was the Captain of Flight 175 which struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

He was a remarkable father and an wonderful man. He left a trail of laughter wherever he went. As evidenced by this story, he was a jokester and always looked for ways to make things more fun or memorable. He never cared to see how the joke ended up; he often just set things into motion and wasn’t even around to see how it all played out – he would just be happy to know that maybe he made someone smile or chuckle by something he did.

At the same time, he was incredibly kind and thoughtful. He loved animals as much as he loved his family. He would be a supportive ear to anyone who needed to work out an issue or vent, and he was always the first to have special one-on-one moments with ‘his girls’ (my mom, my sister, and me), forming those core family memories. He was a forever student, always searching for new learnings and experiences. My dad and I would spend afternoons doing things like learning to make rockets or flying kites on the beach. There was always a lesson or a new skill to be discovered. He was able to see the world because of his time in the Navy and his occupation as a pilot, so he instilled the value of travel in me and my sister, along with the importance of learning from differing cultures. Growing up in Atlantic City, he loved his hometown (and after we moved away, he loved the summers we spent returning down the shore), but he felt passionately to open his mind to the rest of the world as well.

The summer before he died, he had surgery on his knee that required an extensive medical leave and allowed us to be together more than usual that year. I still hold on to my fondest memory of my time with him, which took place that summer. The memory is clear: me riding on the back of his motorcycle from the Philadelphia suburbs to Atlantic City, clinging to his back as we made our way to the beach. Then, searching for fresh mussels to pluck from the sand and cook back at our house for dinner. We spent the rest of the night writing down lyrics and dancing in the kitchen as he played “Summer of ’69” and other songs on his guitar.

That, right there – those little moments – is what life is really all about.

Mr. Morrow’s Conclusion (As Told By Mr. Morrow)

“As I stood by the podium, I looked at a sea of about 500 pilots and flight attendants sitting together to my right in a full church of about 1,500 people. I got a look from some fellow crew members like it was time to wrap this up and finish the story. The problem was, it was never supposed to end. It was supposed to go on and on forever. I had no ending. I remember thinking, ‘How do I end this story about a great guy?’ And then it came to me, from an angel or maybe Vic himself.

I said, ‘This story was never supposed to come to an end, but what I do know is this. On that fateful day, the moment Vic passed on, he was instantly standing in front of the Pearly Gates. Saint Peter came out, looked at Vic, and smiled. Then, he glanced down at Vic’s feet and said:

Come on in, ’cause I like your shoes.’”

Brielle’s Moral of the Story (My Encouragement)

I will keep this short and sweet with three simple, actionable, and important takeaways. They’re not groundbreaking, and you probably already know them; however, a gentle reminder of these learnings can never hurt.

  • Keep it loose and have some fun. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and try to make light of issues that could be otherwise frustrating.
  • Be supportive and kind to others. People will remember those beautiful moments of camaraderie or friendship.
  • Hug your loved ones a little tighter today. Spend time with them in whatever way you’d like, whether that’s sharing laughs or making mussels at the beach, because those are the memories and moments you’ll keep.

The End.