Remembering 9/11: Rick Rescorla, a Singing Hero

by Toni Williams on September 10, 2017

Every culture tells the stories of its heroes. There are multiple reasons for telling the stories of heroes. As long as we tell the story and say the name of the hero, he still lives. Telling the story of the hero inspires each successive generation to heroism. Rick Rescorla was a hero on September 11, 2001 in the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, New York City. His story must be told and the name of Rick Rescorla must be said aloud to keep him alive.

Rick Rescorla conducted quarterly drills for evacuation of the Twin Towers

Rescorla was born in Cornwall, England and enlisted in the British Army at the age of 17. Entranced by the United States military parachutists (Go Airborne), Rick Rescorla emigrated to the U.S. and joined the United States Army. Rescorla faced the vicious fighting in La Drang, Vietnam and his photo became the cover of the book “We Were Soldiers Once…And Young”.

Rescorla on the cover of the book “We Were Soldiers Once…And Young”

When Rescorla’s troops were frightened or stressed out, he would sing to them. He would sing them songs that he had grown up with in Cornwall. From an Oklahoma City University School of Law article by Michael Gibson:

He served two tours in Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry Division: sometimes he sang to his
troops to calm them. Lt. General Hal Moore described him as “the best platoon leader I ever
saw” and put Rescorla’s photo on the front cover of his book.

The Men of Harlech Poem from Cornwall-

Men of Cornwall stand ye steady,
It cannot be ever said ye
for the battle were not ready
Stand and never yield!

He used the G.I. bill to obtain an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree and a law degree. After teaching law school for a while, Mr. Rescorla went into security work with Dean Witter and then Morgan Stanley. He survived the 1993 World Trade Center Attack and became increasingly worried about the security of the World Trade Center. He conducted quarterly evacuation drills with the employees of Morgan Stanley. Again, from the Oklahoma City University School of Law article:

He began regular evacuation drills, standing in the stairwells, stop watch in hand. He
taught his colleagues always to go down, not up (helicopter rescues from rooftops are rare). He
told his co-workers never to wait for police or fire fighters, to always take charge of their own
survival.
He persisted for eight years, despite a divorce, a long battle with cancer, and a second
marriage. In 1997, Dean Witter merged with Morgan Stanley, putting Rescorla in charge of
security for floors 44 through 73 of Tower 2. He kept up the drills, insisting that everyone
participate, even visitors.

In his own words, Rick Rescorla talks about Vietnam, battles and security:

On September 11, 2001, Rick Rescorla went far above the call of duty for the average person. Mr. Rescorla was never average. After the jet filled with fuel and human beings hit the North Tower, the powers that be at the Port Authority (overseers of the World Trade Center) ordered everyone to remain at their desks. Rescorla had always feared another attack and began leading his people down the stairs of the South Tower.

From RickRescorla.com:

John Olson, a Morgan Stanley regional director, saw Rescorla reassuring colleagues in the 10th-floor stairwell. “Rick, you’ve got to get out, too,” Olson told him.

“As soon as I make sure everyone else is out,” Rescorla replied.

Morgan Stanley officials say Rescorla also told employees that “today is a day to be proud to be American” and that “tomorrow, the whole world will be talking about you.” They say he also sang “God Bless America” and Cornish folk tunes in the stairwells. Those reports could not be confirmed, although they don’t sound out of character. He liked to sing in a crisis.

But the documented truth is impressive enough. Morgan Stanley managing director Bob Sloss was the only employee who didn’t evacuate the 66th floor after the first plane hit, pausing to call his family and several underlings, even taking a call from a Bloomberg News reporter. Then the second plane hit, and his office walls cracked, and he felt the tower wagging like a dog’s tail. He clambered down to the 10th floor, and there was Rescorla, sweating through his suit in the heat, telling people they were almost out, making no move to leave himself.

From the same article:

Susan Rescorla watched the United Airlines jet carve through her husband’s tower, and she dissolved in tears. After a while, her phone rang. It was Rick.

“I don’t want you to cry,” he said. “I have to evacuate my people now.”

She kept sobbing.

“If something happens to me, I want you to know that you made my life.”

The phone went dead.

His body was never found.

A famous Cornish poem “The White Rose”:

Now I am alone, my sweet darling,
I walk through the garden and weep,
But spring will return with your presence
Oh lily white rose, mine to keep

I love the White rose in it’s splendour
I love the White Rose in it’s bloom
I love the White Rose so fare as she grows.
It’s the rose that reminds me of you.

The people of his hometown in Cornwall erected a monument to their hero son.

The monument to Rick Rescorla in Cornwall

While writing about Rick Rescorla, I kept thinking of the General George S. Patton quote:

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

Rick Rescorla, hero

Indeed, on September 11 and every day, we are grateful that Rick Rescorla lived.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott September 10, 2017 at 6:28 am

Thank god that men such as this have lived! What he lived through is truly amazing, and it took a damn skyscraper falling on him to stop him! Truly his name should be remembered, and in past times, bard would have composed ballads about him!

Reply

Toni Williams September 10, 2017 at 6:35 am

Scott- Yes. That would have made him happy. Some future warrior singing the Ballad of Rescorla to his soldiers in battle.

Toni

Reply

Mike K September 11, 2017 at 6:31 am

It is sad that he was not portrayed in the movie made from that book. More would know his story.

Reply

Toni Williams September 11, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Mike K- We both feel that way!

TW

Reply

Jablonski September 11, 2017 at 7:16 am

Also led a effing bayonet charge to save his unit’s position at Ia Drang. Remarkable man. He’s not here, but he’s not forgotten, and we’ll see him again at Fiddler’s Green.

Reply

Toni Williams September 11, 2017 at 1:37 pm

Jablonski-
Amen

TW

Reply

A. C. September 11, 2017 at 6:40 pm

I would also recommend the article about Rick Rescorla published in the February 11, 2002 issue of the New Yorker Magazine: THE REAL HEROES ARE DEAD by JAMES B. STEWART
I believe it is also online.

Reply

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