‘By the grace of God, I’m still here’: Capitol Police Officer recalls responding to Twin Towers

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RICHMOND, Va. — Officer Rodney Hodges with the Virginia Division of Capitol Police wore a different badge for 21 years with the New York Police Department. He retired as a detective. ​

“It doesn’t seem like it was 18 years ago,” Officer Hodges recalled. “It seems like it was just yesterday.”​

On September 11, 2001, he was at the station about a half a mile away from the World Trade Center. ​When others were running away, he ran towards the danger. 

“It looked like a bomb went off,” he recalled. “It was just pure chaos that morning.”

“As we were running there, the first tower came down. People were coming out of the building, covered in ash.” ​ –Officer Rodney Hodges

Officer Hodges remembers seeing people desperate to get out jump from the Twin Towers. When the second tower fell, he was assigned to set up “triages,” or first aid stations, near the West Side Highway. ​

“[We were] assuming there were a lot of victims that needed medical assistance. But that wasn’t the case,” he described. “We found a few pockets where people were making noise and we were able to save some people, but the majority of people were dead.”​

A total of 2,977 people were killed in the September 11 terror attacks (2,606 were at the World Trade Center), including 414 firefighters and law enforcement officers who were among them.​

“No matter the danger, no matter the things that went wrong that day, we still went in as first responders – that’s what we do,” Officer Hodges said. ​

After the attacks, Officer Hodges was assigned to work in Staten Island, where barges would bring the debris from Ground Zero. He would wear a protective suit and a mask to sift through the ruble to find any human remains that could be identified. ​

“Some people still haven’t been found,” Officer Hodges said. ​

When Officer Hodges and Capitol Bureau Reporter Sara McCloskey spoke on the 18th anniversary, he brought along two magazines with images of Ground Zero and the lives lost since then. A number of Officer Hodges’ friends died that day. Some of his friends died years later after developing cancer from being on the job. ​

“Eighteen years later people are still getting sick with this cancer,” Officer Hodges said. ​

In July, President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund bill, which permanently replenishes a fund that would benefit police officers, fire fighters and other first responders who were hurt or were killed because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Without the reauthorization, the $7.4 billion fund would run out of money by December 2020. ​

There have also been efforts by the Virginia General Assembly to make sure firefighters get workers compensation when diagnosed with cancer, presumably from working near so many toxins when responding to fires. ​

Being on the ground when these terror attacks happened has taken a toll on Officer Hodges; there have been years of sleepless nights. What he witnessed isn’t something that leaves dreams easily. Recently, he started talking to his daughter — who was just a toddler when the attacks happened — about his experiences, too.

Today, he remembers what our nation will never forget. 

“By the grace of God, I’m still here,” Hodges said. “I’m still healthy and I’m glad I was able to serve and protect up in New York and I hope to do the same down here at Capitol Police.”

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