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September 11 Memorial: Remembering the victims who died at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania

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Marsha Dianah Ratchford

Age: 34

Hometown: Prichard, Ala., USA

Occupation: Information systems technician first class, U.S. Navy

Location: Ground, Pentagon

Profile:

Rodney Ratchford tries to talk about his wife in the present tense. Amid the devastation at the Pentagon, where Marsha D. Ratchford worked for the Navy as an information technician, her husband has not given up hope. It's what she would have wanted.

"We still got the faith. We're still praying every day," said Rodney Ratchford, 38. "We have our up days, our down days . . . but we haven't lost faith, and we never will."

Marsha Ratchford, 34, is listed among the missing at the Pentagon after a hijacked American Airlines jet crashed into the building Sept. 11. She was as strong-willed as her husband, a friendly, quiet woman born in Detroit and raised in a large family in Mobile, Ala. She joined the Navy about 15 years ago, and one day at a training school in San Diego, she happened to exchange glances in the gym with her future husband. "She had an awesome smile," remembered Rodney Ratchford, who served as a machinist's mate in the Navy.

They married soon after in Alabama, in May 1988. She had many loves in her life -- working with computers, the challenge of handling crucial military messages at the Navy Command Center in the Pentagon. But few equaled her devotion as a mother. The Ratchfords have three children -- an 11-year-old son, an 8-year-old daughter and an 18-month-olddaughter. "She was a mother from her heart," said Rodney Ratchford, who now works as a supervisor for a national security company.

On the morning of Sept. 11, Marsha Ratchford called her husband to tell him about the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. "She told me that the two planes had just hit the towers," he said. "She told me, 'I love you,' and, 'Have a nice day,' and, 'I'll call you later.' That was the last I heard from her."

Since then, Rodney Ratchford has turned to his faith and family for support, including the close-knit community drawn even closer together at Bolling Air Force Base, where he and his family live. "Everybody loved her as much as I did," he said.

His children have been asking questions, searching for simple explanations to complex situations as only children can. The kids ask the hardest question of all: Why? He believes that only God can provide the answer, and that only God can keep his hope intact.

"We're not," he said, "going to give up."

-- Manny Fernandez

Source: The Washington Post, AP and washingtonpost.com

The profiles in this feature were written in the months following Sept. 11, 2001.

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Timeline

A day after the 9/11 attacks a makeshift memorial was created on the Arlington Memorial Cemetery fence. Seven years later, the first 9/11 memorial is opening.

Related Coverage:

3-Dimensional Virtual Memorial

Victims Remembered in Maryland

One Family's Loss

Stepping Through the Ashes

Pentagon Under Attack

Five Year Anniversary Coverage


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