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For widow of 9/11 flight attendant from Fargo, terrorist's death brings joy, pain

Rebecca Marchand, whose husband, Al Marchand, was killed while working as a flight attendant on Sept. 11, 2001, says the CIA's killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri means there's 'one less evil person' in the world.

091121.N.FF.SHAW911.02.JPG
Al Marchand kisses his new wife, Rebecca, on their honeymoon in Mexico in 1997.
Contributed / Rebecca Marchand
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FARGO — The widow of a Fargo native who was killed on Sept. 11, 2001, is pleased that Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed.

Zawahiri, the leader of Al-Qaeda, was a mastermind and planner of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. About 3,000 people were killed in those attacks. Zawahiri was the world’s most wanted terrorist.

The United States CIA killed Zawahiri over the weekend in a drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“The world is absolutely a better place today,” Rebecca Marchand said. “This is one less evil person the world has to deal with.”

Rebecca’s husband was Al Marchand. Al grew up in Fargo, where he attended St. Mary’s Grade School and graduated from Shanley High School in 1975. He later moved to New Mexico and became a police officer for 21 years. After that, Al became a flight attendant for United Airlines.

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The photo of Al Marchand that is displayed at the September 11 Memorial in New York City.
Contributed photo

On Sept. 11, 2001, Al, 44, was working on United Flight 175, scheduled to fly from Boston to Los Angeles. About 30 minutes after takeoff, two terrorists entered the cockpit, killed the pilots and took control of the plane. Three other terrorists took over the cabin.

At 9:03 a.m., the plane, traveling at about 590 miles per hour with 10,000 gallons of jet fuel, crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. That was just 17 minutes after American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower. All 65 people aboard United Flight 175 died on impact, while about 640 people were killed instantly in the South Tower.

So, the killing of one of the men who was responsible for the murder of her husband and thousands of others is somewhat satisfying to Rebecca.

“I applaud President Biden for doing this,“ Rebecca said. “Thank God for the person who sent that drone. It’s about time they got this guy. He lived 21 years longer than my husband. That’s a long time.”

Still, Rebecca has an empty feeling about the killing of Zawahiri.

“He was a monster,” Rebecca said. “My family has been shredded since 9/11 because of him. There will never be justice for Al or any of the other 3,000 victims. This is the closest to justice we’ll ever get.”

While Rebecca is gratified that Zawahiri was killed, it also causes her more pain.

“It brings back all the sadness,” she said. “My stomach is a mess this morning. It didn’t have to be this way. My life has never been the same. This brings back the heartache and the sadness of how senseless 9/11 was.”

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For Rebecca, there’s no such thing as moving on and forgetting about Sept. 11.

“There’s never closure,” she said. “You hear about it all the time. It’s always present. It’s always there. I wish this wasn’t my life. I feel cheated. It’s still devastating. It changes you.”

Rebecca still lives in New Mexico. The last 21 years have been brutal for her. She struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. Her sister took her own life. Therapy is what kept Rebecca alive.

She can never forget Al or the life they would have had together.

“I miss him every day,” Rebecca said. “He was such a large presence. You can never fill that hole. He was funny and kind. I miss his presence in my life. He was so good for us. I have never been loved like that.”

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