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Waleska Martinez - Hero Of Flight 93

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Waleska Martinez - Hero Of Flight 93Supervisory computer specialist, New York regional office, U.S. Census Bureau, 37, Jersey City, N.J.; parents, Juan and Irma Martinez; brothers Juan Jr., Reinaldo; sister, Lourdes Lebron. She and Marion Britton were traveling together to a computer-operations conference in San Francisco.

At work, Waleska Martinez was friendly but reserved, always mindful of her responsibility to supervise the employees she'd trained and the computers that kept her office humming.

After quitting time, however, the conscientious computer whiz had no trouble unwinding. Martinez, 37, reveled in whipping up rice and beans for a crowd, shivering through movie thrillers or dancing until she dropped at her favorite pop singers' concerts.

"She was a very smart, very quiet person, but oh my God, could she let herself loose," marveled her roommate, Angela Lopez, 39. "She was so much fun."

Born in Puerto Rico, Martinez studied computer science and business at the University of Puerto Rico, graduating first in her class in 1986. She taught computer science at two Puerto Rican universities before moving to New York in 1987.

In 1988, she was hired as a clerk in the U.S. Census Bureau's regional office. Promoted to supervisory computer specialist, she recruited and trained other computer specialists.

"She was a manager's dream, responsible and great at resolving problems," said her boss, Regional Director Lester A. Farthing.

After hours, she played tennis and baseball, rooted for the New York Yankees, went to plays and cooked Spanish or Italian feasts for friends. Twice a year, she traveled to Cancun or other spots with Lopez, always cramming her suitcase with twice as much as she needed. And nothing was too pricey when it came to catching live performances of Tina Turner, Madonna or Gloria Estefan.

Earlier this year, Martinez shelled out $500 for two tickets to Madonna's Philadelphia concert and sang along until she was hoarse. Two weeks later, she and Lopez did it again "up in nosebleed territory" when the singer performed in New York.

"It was one of those spur of the moment things," Lopez said sheepishly.

Lopez bought a ball cap bearing Madonna's "Drowned World" tour logo that night. Martinez wore it to the airport Sept. 11.

"I kidded her, 'That's my hat,' " Lopez said. "Now I'm glad she had something of me with her."

Copyright 1997-2005 PG Publishing.

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