CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sergeant Rodney Gillis was on the 21st floor of the North Tower on September 11, 2001, evacuating the people inside when he made his final radio call.
"Clear the ar--," he said.
Then silence, as the building collapsed.
“He knew that that building was coming down on him," Rodney's daughter Johnique said. "His main concern was making sure that we got as many people as safe as possible.”
Johnique was 14 when she lost her father to the terror attacks.
"At 14 I’m like no he’s coming back, even though part of me knew he was there when it happened," she said through tears. "14, you know, you try to like, hold onto reality."
Every year on September 11, the Gillis family gathers to grill out together. It was Rodney's favorite thing to do. They now hold the reunion in Charlotte, where they moved 9 years ago.
"My father was 33 turning 34 when he passed away, and I'm 25 now," Rodney's other daughter Alicia said. "You really have to take every day and love the people you're with. You just don't know how much time you have."
Now, 18 years later, they're still remembering their hero.
“My daughter is 10 and she went to school today and she had on his t-shirt and had his photo," Johnique smiled. “My son was running around like oh this is my grandpa, grandpa is a superhero!"
He was, and still is, their superhero.
“Mom told me that he said when he passed he wanted his ashes to be scattered over New York City and if I’m not mistaken she said no," Johnique laughed, as mom Serina nodded, smiling knowingly.
"So, you know, he kind of got what he wanted,” Johnique smiled back.
The Gillis family remembers. They will for generations to come.
They hope you do, too, on the anniversary of 9/11 -- a day to honor Rodney and so many other heroes like him who never came home.
A day to grieve, to celebrate, and to remember.
"On his way to the World Trade that day, he said, 'Oh, it’s a beautiful day,' and it was, just as it is right now," Serina said with a smile. "He knew what he was going toward, but he still thought about the beautiful day."
Now every beautiful day has Sgt. Rodney Gillis written all over it. And so does New York City.