Editor’s note: Pick up a copy of Saturday’s Journal for 9/11 LEGACY: The loss, the wars, the enduring images, a commemorative special section featuring the stories of New Mexicans who were on the front lines of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Twenty years later, Joshua Marchand misses his father everyday. He sees him in the faces and personalities of his own children.
The widow, Rebecca Marchand, said it’s always a hard day. As the world remembers, she said sometimes she wishes she could forget.
But at the same time she’s glad they remember. It’s an honor — and a burden.
Alfred Marchand, a retired Alamogordo police officer, was working in his second career as a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 175 when it was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center. The 44-year-old was the only New Mexican to die in the 9/11 attacks.
“I think about him every day. I have his pictures in my house and I tell stories to my kids about him and they know who their Papa Al is,” said Joshua Marchand, who was 20 when he lost his dad. “They know what he looks like, based on the pictures I show them. You know, that’s all I can do now is just kind of share his memory with people.”
The Journal caught up with relatives, friends and former classmates of Marchand, near and far, to paint a picture of the man he once was, the man he would become and a legacy left behind decades ago.
Marchand was born to a Catholic family in Fargo, North Dakota. Doctors had previously told his mother she couldn’t have children so he was known as the “miracle baby.” Classmates at Shanley High School described him as a class clown and a friend to everyone.
After a Sadie Hawkins dance, Marchand took his date and another couple to the Fargo airport, where teens would sit by the runway and watch planes takeoff.
“This is what I love. I want to fly someday,” Marchand told them. After graduation he joined the Army and was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base. Marchand later told his first wife he felt he had been dropped at “the end of the Earth” but grew to love New Mexico.
Kim Marchand said she was watching “Jaws” with a group of girls at Alamogordo’s Starlite Drive-in on July 4, 1976, when a car full of guys pulled beside them. Al Marchand was one of them.
“I actually was interested in his friend. My cousin was interested in Al. But it didn’t end up going that way,” she said. “It all happened very quickly.”
Kim Marchand was wooed by his quick-wit, humor and fearlessness. Just four months later they were driving his parents cross-country for their wedding.
On the way Marchand’s father had a massive heart attack and died in the restroom of a Raton gas station. At his mother’s insistence, the couple went ahead with the wedding and briefly relocated to Fargo to be closer to her.
She said his father’s death was very hard on Marchand, who went through a lot of anger and for a while took to drinking. They moved back to New Mexico and Marchand, looking for a steady career, joined the Alamogordo Police Department in 1981.
Theo Livingston said Marchand was his training officer when he joined the Alamogordo force in 1985 and the pair grew to be friends and, eventually, family.
They made a pact that if either of them “came to our demise because of the career that we’d take care of each other’s kids.”
Marchand received numerous awards and commendations as he worked on a variety of cases, including narcotics, embezzlement and burglaries.
Livingston said much of that success came from his ability to level with people, no matter their background.
“He treated people with a lot of respect. And in turn, you know, that respect comes back to you. It allowed for a lot of communication to take place,” he said.
Livingston said Marchand was well-known in the community, a hard worker for his superiors and a “wealth of knowledge” for his officers.
When he wasn’t being an officer “that even criminals could trust,” Kim Marchand said he was a “very, very, very good daddy.”
“From the time Josh was born he was hands on — always the one down on the floor playing. I was never that parent he was,” she said.
Joshua Marchand said his dad was half goofball/daredevil who would wake him up by saying “rise and shine, monkey of mine” and raised him “to go fast.” He said the two spent countless days at Elephant Butte Lake, four-wheeling, cliff jumping and water-skiing.
“I learned to drive a boat before I could see over the steering wheel. He’d have me out there sitting on four life jackets, pulling him barefoot,” he said, laughing. Marchand would spend some days in his dad’s patrol car and nights sleeping on the tops of fire trucks at the station. Marchand said his dad was a go-getter who instilled a “strong work ethic” in him along with the value of opening doors for others, respecting elders and other lessons.
“Letting me know that it’s OK to fail as long as you don’t give up. And it’s OK to fight as long as you’re not starting the fight,” he said.
Kim and Alfred Marchand eventually drifted apart and divorced but she said he remained her “best friend” who would be there in tough times, like when her father battled Alzheimer’s while living with her or her daughter needed a father figure.
“It didn’t matter what we needed. He would always be there,” she said. “My entire family never considered him an ex.”
In 1992, he met Rebecca Marchand who said the pair danced one happy hour at the Eagle’s Nest in Alamogordo and “that was that.”
“I was smitten with him immediately,” she said. Five years later they were married.
Marchand became a devout Christian in the late ’90s and retired from the police department in 2001 as a highly decorated patrol commander. By that time, he was already training to be a flight attendant.
“He decided that just on a whim, which is how he did most things,” Rebecca Marchand said. “I hated it — but we made it work.”
She said his flying benefits allowed the couple to travel to places like Hawaii and in early September they spent a weekend sightseeing in Boston. On a ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard, she said, Marchand was feeding seagulls and told her, when he died, he wanted his body thrown in the ocean to be eaten by sharks.
When she told him that was illegal, he settled for his ashes spread in the ocean. The next day they departed at the airport and he told her “I guess this is goodbye,” kissed her and skipped — like a child — to his gate.
Joshua Marchand said his dad was coming to meet him for a trip to Australia. They had recently run into each other outside a Walmart in Alamogordo.
“I remember him giving me a big ol’ hug … He was one of those dads that would show you affection no matter how old you got. And at that time, I was a little embarrassed. I was like 19,” he said. “But if I would have known that was the last day I would see my dad, I would have probably held his hand and walked around Walmart with him all day.”
Marchand said nowadays he finds himself waking up his four children with “rise and shine, monkey of mine.” Echoes of his father.
“Silly little things like that … I find myself doing that to my kids,” Marchand said. “It’s funny how things like that carry, you pass it on.”