ALAMOGORDO, N.M. Joshua Marchand found a post card of the World Trade Center in a shoe box just weeks after two jetliners slammed into the twin towers and killed his father.
Underneath it was a Bible with an inscription written by his father, a police officer of 20 years who retired and joined United Airlines as a flight attendant.
"Pretty soon I'm going to be in heaven, and you're going to be left to struggle here on Earth. Use this Bible for strength and wisdom in God. Love, Dad," Al Marchand wrote.
"I read that every day," said Joshua, 20. "That's probably the best thing he could have left behind for me."
Three months after Al Marchand's death aboard United Airlines Flight 175, his son and wife say their religious faith helps them cope.
This Christmas, they will miss his annoying, yet endearing, habit of singing Christmas carols. And how he jokingly called his son "Edgar" to this day, no one knows why.
Al Marchand's memory is alive in the home Becky Marchand shares with her sons Al's stepsons Dakota, 15, and Trae, 13. Joshua Marchand lives in a different house with his mother.
Hanging over the hearth is a poster-size portrait of Al Marchand in police uniform, his dimpled smile radiating across the room. Near the front door is a plaque from United Airlines which reads: "In memory of Alfred G. Marchand. United Airlines. We remember."
Becky Marchand says her husband's adventurous streak led him to become a flight attendant after retiring from the police force.
He began training for his dream job in November 2000, even though neighbors teased him and his wife tried to dissuade him.
"I didn't want to be away from him or move somewhere else," said Becky Marchand. "But Al was gung-ho about doing it. He was adamant, and I just had to accept it."
Al Marchand was based in Boston. He returned to Alamogordo on his days off, and his wife last visited him four days before his death.
She remembers those last days like a second honeymoon. The couple, who married in 1997, took a ferry ride to Martha's Vineyard and spent a Sunday afternoon on the Massachusetts coast with Al gazing at the ocean while Becky read a book.
"It was just unbelievable that God would be gracious enough to give us that last four days," Becky Marchand said.
She took off from Boston in the early morning on Sept. 11. As her plane landed in Denver, a passenger sitting beside her read e-mails about the attacks. She called her husband's cell phone and got his voice mail.
"I just kept looking at people, saying somebody has to help me. Somebody has to tell me something," she said.
Becky Marchand went to a hotel where another guest checked news reports on a laptop computer and gently broke the news to her. Finally alone in her room, a representative of United Airlines called to tell her husband had been killed.
Back in Alamogordo, Joshua Marchand awakened to live footage of Flight 175 hitting the second tower, unaware that he was viewing his father's final moments.
In New Mexico, Al Marchand's death was announced during a special session of the Legislature and on intercoms in Alamogordo schools. By that time, Dakota and Trae were already home.
Al Marchand is New Mexico's only known victim of the attacks. Becky Marchand said she sometimes grows tired of being people's connection to the attacks in Alamogordo, which sits in the foothills of the Sacramento Mountains of southern New Mexico.
On Oct. 28, she joined thousands of relatives of victims at a memorial service near the smoldering rubble of ground zero.
"In New York, there were all these family members who were in the same exact position we were in," she said. "We actually blended in with people there."
As the holidays approach, Becky Marchand hopes to put emphasis on the true meaning of Christmas.
"It is about the birth of Christ," she said. "Had he not been born that day, where would we be today in going through this (tragedy)?"