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IT1 Marsha D. Ratchford, USN

Rodney Ratchford tried 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 had not given up hope. It’s what she would have wanted. 

“We still got the faith. We’re still prayed 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, was listed among the missing at the Pentagon after a hijacked American Airlines jet crashed into the building on September 11. She was as strong-willed as her husband, a friendly, quiet woman born in Detroit and raised in a large family in Mobile, Alabama. She joined the Navy about 15 years ago. 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 and 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-old daughter. “She was a mother from her heart,” said Rodney Ratchford, who works as a supervisor for a national security company. 

On the morning of September 11, Marsha Ratchford called her husband to tell him about the attacks on the World Trade Center. “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 closeknit 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.”
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