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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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William R. Ruth

Age: 57

Hometown: Mount Airy, Md., USA

Occupation: Chief Warrant Officer 4th Class, U.S. Army

Location: Ground, Pentagon

Profile:

William Ruth, 57, a veteran of two wars and of nearly 30 years as a social studies teacher, has been declared dead in the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon.

An Army chief warrant officer, Ruth lived in Mount Airy. On the evening of Sept. 10, he had presided over his first meeting as commander of his local VFW post, where he is being remembered as a good friend, an avid Redskins fan and a motorcyclist who enjoyed riding in Maryland's rolling hills.

"He'd do anything for anybody," said auxiliary member Dottie Norwood. His absence for the past week has hurt terribly. "It has hit everybody hard," she said.

Ruth served in the Marines during the Vietnam War, where he was a helicopter pilot. He would later tell friends of the missions he flew, evacuating the wounded and the dead.

After he left Vietnam, he received a master's degree and taught for nearly three decades, most recently at John T. Baker Middle School in Damascus. He was a voracious reader and taught deep lessons in history, said one of his colleagues there, Linda Gross.

"He was an absolute intellect," she said. But he also was a caring mentor, taking kids on field trips and helping younger teachers, she said.

He served in the Army Reserve, and when the Persian Gulf War broke out, he was pulled out of the classroom and sent to the Middle East.

In 1997, Ruth retired from teaching and took an Army job at the Pentagon. The Army announced yesterday that he was among the 30 Pentagon victims confirmed dead in last week's attack.

When news of the attack broke, Gross said she couldn't believe that Ruth was at the Pentagon. She chose to hope he was in Canada, closing up his fishing cabin on a river.

Now that the reality of his loss is real to her, she said, "I firmly believe he lost his life because he stopped to help somebody."

The divorced father of two adult sons, Ruth lost one of them, Chad, in an automobile accident about a year ago. Chad Ruth's organs were donated and Ruth met the four people whose lives they had saved, according to his friend, past VFW post commander William Guilday.

His surviving son, Sean, attends West Virginia University.

At his colonial home in Mount Airy, hung with a blue Army flag and an American flag, Ruth's companion, Darlene Claypool, exhausted from a week of fruitless waiting, described him simply as "a fantastic person."

On Friday morning, he will be honored during the flag-raising at John T. Baker Middle School.

-- Mary Otto

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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