Sep 9, 2021

The Salvation Army was one of the first and longest responders on the scene at the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, offering support, supplies and calm. With this year’s 20th anniversary of 9/11, we talked to two of our heroes, Shirley Lawson-Carr and Rosetta Hodges, for their 9/11 memories, as they were up close for recovery efforts in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Shirley Lawson-Carr

Lawson-Carr, Executive Assistant to Midland Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel Bob Webster, worked at a food tent near Ground Zero in New York, three months after the Sept. 11 attacks. Lawson-Carr’s daughter-in-law, Dana, was scheduled to be on a top floor of the World Trade Center early that morning but was tardy after a family discussion about her long hours.

Lawson-Carr distributed hot meals and a listening ear to first responders, police, firefighters, clergy, and anyone else working at Ground Zero for clean-up. Buildings in the area were collapsed and windows were shattered months after the towers fell.

“They might need refreshments, hot coffee, hot cocoa, gloves, batteries, anything that they could use would be supplied from the main tent, the Taj Mahal,” Lawson-Carr said.

Moving around the treacherous terrain was one adventurous part of the experience of working at Ground Zero. Lawson-Carr used a John Deere Gator to navigate the area, monitoring its oil, gas, and vehicle health to ensure its usability.

“My Gator would go over piles of rubbish and concrete,” Lawson-Carr said. “It was pretty devastating. We had to go around the Financial Center to get to one of the sites. They had construction, fences, and things like that, set up around it. On those fences, people had put different pictures and flowers for the memorials. It tugged at your heart when you saw those. I was just so grateful that I was alive and that my daughter-in-law was alive.”

Looking back at the fateful day, she said, “[My daughter-in-law] Dana would have been on one of the top floors where she worked. When she arrived at the World Trade Center, she came out on the mezzanine level. She saw people exiting the building. It wasn’t panicked at that time, but she was told to get out. She walked, ran, almost 100 blocks to catch ferry to take her back home to New Jersey. We didn’t know anything about it. We couldn’t get in touch with her for almost six hours. It was quite a heart-wrenching experience. I’ll never forget that. Even today, she has trouble with it sometimes.”

Rosetta Hodges

The world watched on live TV the drama of 9/11 from Manhattan with the collapse of the Twin Towers. But the recovery efforts in Washington, D.C., were still daunting, at the Pentagon, where the commercial plane crashed into the Pentagon.

Rosetta Hodges, a business department coordinator for The Salvation Army Midland Division, was working near the Pentagon attack at the time for The Salvation Army, despite many office coworkers away on a work trip to Atlanta. Upon arriving to help, Hodges saw The Salvation Army leap into action to help recovery efforts on the scene, providing refreshments from a canteen.

Hodges, a Salvation Army officer at the time, worked the night shift at the Pentagon perimeter with a fellow Salvation Army officer, providing supplies, such as a pair of dry socks or gloves, to aid recovery efforts.

“The Salvation Army offered pastors to pray with people, counselors to speak with people,” Hodges said. “Pretty much anything you could think of, The Salvation Army offered that to those people who were there, literally from the first moment.”

She explained, “The area there, they called it ‘Camp Unity.’ That’s what I remember is that everybody came together. There were no obstacles. Just everybody trying to help out in a horrific situation.”

Hodges said of her experience, “One of the things that sticks out in my mind, my friend Angie and I were there, we would often work together. We met this canine officer. His name was Isaac. He was working the day that the plane hit the Pentagon. He was one of the first people to go and offer help. He still sticks out in my brain, talking with him, sometimes trying to make him laugh, sometimes just listening, offering food. Being whatever we needed to be in that moment to help him move through the day.”

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