Ellen Saracini lost her husband, United Airlines Capt. Victor J. Saracini, when his Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Now she stands to lose more than half of her widow's pension in a very different kind of crash — United's default of its $9 billion pension obligations.
The scale of the default, the largest in U.S. history, has until now received more attention than the toll on the lives of the bankrupt airline's 120,000 employees and pensioners. Saracini discussed its impact on her and her two daughters in an interview yesterday, saying she hopes her story will help shift the focus to the laws and policies that allow such defaults.
"My own situation is not a crisis — I have my husband's life insurance to keep us secure in our house," she said from her home in Yardley, Pa. "But a lot of other people have real hardship — medical costs they won't be able to afford, houses they won't be able to keep. If I can help draw attention to them, I'll do it in a heartbeat."