Robert E. Russell

Robert E.  Russell

At first, those who knew Robert E. Russell clung to the hope that--somehow--the veteran Army soldier would have found a way to survive after American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into his Pentagon office.

The 52-year-old civilian supervisory budget analyst and retired Army sergeant major worked in the outer ring of the building's first floor. One friend called him a survivor. His wife, Teresa, whom he met in high school, said her husband was open-hearted, vivacious, a prankster.

"He was that type of person, always keeping something going," she said.

After the crash, Russell's wife, children, grandchildren and friends gathered in the 18th Century home Russell had worked so hard to renovate in Oxon Hill, Md.

"You have to go with your first instinct of hope," said Wilmore Ritchie Jr., a longtime friend and fellow Army retiree who has camped out in the home with Russell's family. "Being that he's a soldier, you would think that he would have found some way."

The pastor notified the family two weeks after the attack.

Russell's body was identified by his fingerprints and his remains were flown to an Air Force casualty center for autopsy. Like the families of many other military victims of last week's terrorist acts, Russell's family plans to have him interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

All that remained now was to receive the body, said Ritchie, still waiting in Russell's house for his friend to come home.

"You couldn't even see this house from the road when he first got it," Ritchie said. "He was always in the process of doing something with it."

Profile courtesy of THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

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