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VIRGINIA Man copes with wife's death



Published: Fri, September 21, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The former Austintown man had a memorial service for his wife Monday.

By JoANNE VIVIANO

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

STAFFORD, Va. -- James Reszke spent nearly 22 years serving in the Army. But it was his wife who became a casualty of war.

Reszke, a former Austintown resident, said his wife, Martha, worked as a budget analyst at the Department of Defense/Army Resources at the Pentagon. She was in her office in the building's E Ring when a terrorist-hijacked plane slammed into the Pentagon Sept. 11. She was 56.

"All I can say is, it's very chilling," Reszke said this week in a telephone interview from his home. "It is the absolute worst feeling anyone can ever have. ... This is just indescribable. People just can't believe it."

Reszke had dropped his wife off at work the morning of the attack, just as he did every day, and went to work at his office about three miles away. Later that morning, when he heard news that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, he telephoned her. Her reply: "Oh, my God."

When he learned of the Pentagon attack, he called Martha again, but her line was dead. Fifteen minutes later, he reached her voice mail and had a glimmer of hope. But it was false hope.

Reszke left his office building and walked toward the Pentagon but was only able to get as close a half mile away. He eventually went home -- about an hour's drive -- to wait for his wife's call.

It was around 10 p.m. when Reszke learned his wife wasn't going to call. The couple's son-in-law, also in the Army, had been helping with Army evacuations.

He obtained a map of the building and compared the crash site to the location of the office where Martha worked. He phoned his father-in-law.

"I could tell he was crying," Reszke said. "He said, 'Jim, I don't know how to tell you this.'"

No survivors: None of the 22 people in the office made it out. Emergency workers are now moving bodies and body parts from the crash site to Dover Air Force Base, where forensic scientists are trying to identify them. It could be three weeks until Reszke hears any official word.

But on Monday, he held a memorial service for his wife at their home.

Reszke graduated from Austintown Fitch High School in 1976 and entered the Army. He married Martha in 1979. They traveled to Germany, Washington state, and other places during his 22 years of service. He also spent time in Korea and Turkey and served 18 months in the Gulf War.

He retired in December 1997 at the rank of master sergeant. He now works as a senior cost estimator at a consulting firm in Fairfax, Va.

He said he is making it through difficult days with the support of co-workers and family: sisters Lorraine Hughes of Austintown, Peggy Alfred of Youngstown and Veronica Anderson of Phoenix; and brother John Reszke of Cincinnati.

And, he said, he continues to hold on to memories.

"We had a fantastic marriage of almost 23 years," he said. "Basically, we lived for today because we never knew what tomorrow would bring."




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