REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Sept. 10, 2021) – It was an action Phyllis Hodges typically wouldn’t have thought twice about – boarding a shuttle bus to attend a meeting at the Pentagon.
Working in human resources for the Secretary of the Army in 2001, it was a common occurrence for the mom of two, who worked out of both Crystal City, Virginia, and the Pentagon.
But as the bus approached the Pentagon parking lot Sept. 11, 2001, it became clear this was no ordinary day.
“You could see the smoke and people just running,” said Hodges, security receptionist at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center. “You could just smell it, and that smell stays with you forever. The smoke in the air, you could see it everywhere. You heard people screaming and hollering. You didn’t know if somebody was coming after you or not. I didn’t know what to do but run too.”
Hodges joined the crowd crossing the 14th Street Bridge, eventually finding refuge at a restaurant in Washington, D.C.
“I had no money, no purse, because I just got off the bus and ran, I was so scared,” Hodges said. “My family didn’t know if I was dead or alive. They knew I had a meeting that day, but the phones went down. I didn’t have any way to call my family to tell them I was alive.”
All her children – then 17 and 14 – could do was tell their principal that their mom was supposed to be at the Pentagon that day, and wait at her usual Metro stop, hoping for her return. In the early hours of Sept. 12, the family was finally reunited.
“I am blessed and lucky that nothing happened to me, and sorry that it happened to my co-workers,” Hodges said.
When American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, 125 Department of Defense personnel, including military service members, civilian employees and contractors were killed, in addition to the 59 passengers on board. To Hodges, the 125 souls lost at the Pentagon are more than just a statistic – they were people she talked to every day, some she was really close with.
“We were going back and forth to people’s funerals all the time, and then it was so much I just couldn’t do it anymore,” Hodges said.
The significance of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 is not lost on Hodges 20 years later. To this day she keeps a chart listing her co-workers who did not survive.
“That’s a day that I will never forget.”
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.