|US Army Col.,|
. . . for one man, the tragedy of September 11, was the terrorist attack he had feared for years.
Col. Rick Rescorla, on
9/11, leading the Dean Witter
evacuation that saved 2,700 lives
Cornishman Rick Rescorla’s heroism is legendary. What is less well known, in this country at least, were his prophetic views on terrorism . . . . Born in the Cornish town of Hayle, Rick’s first encounter with America came in the form of GIs preparing for D-Day in the town. They inspired Rick’s adventurous spirit and his never failing love for America.
Rick and his friend and confidante Dan Hill both enlisted in the United States Army.
A highly decorated war hero, Rick served the USA as platoon leader in Vietnam.
For all his success in the US, Cornwall was never far from Rick’s heart and he returned regularly.
Rick retired from his army career in 1968. Via a career as a university law professor, Rick became director of security for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter (previously Dean Witter) in their offices in the World Trade Centre.
It was here that Rick Rescorla was to predict with startling accuracy the horrors he himself would later face in that building.
Speaking in an interview in 1998, Rick predicted that, "Terrorist forces can tie up conventional forces and bring them to their knees. Just one man willing to give his life for what he believes in, chooses the time and place and there is no way that any soldiers can be 100% alert."
But alert he was and in 1990 he asked old friend and ex-special forces soldier Dan Hill to evaluate the risks to the World Trade Centre. The garage was pin pointed as a weak point, but no official response to their report was forthcoming.
In 1993, a van packed with explosives was detonated 30 feet from where they had predicted.
1993 should have been a wake-up all for all. Rick pressed Dean Witter to move out of the Twin Towers believing that the next attack would come by air.
Eight years later, Rick Rescorla would personally escort all 20 floors of Morgan Stanley employees out of the building and to safety.
8.46am, September 11 2001, American Airlines, flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Centre.
Amid the panic and desperation that ensued, Rick Rescorla could be found guiding people out of the south tower, despite speaker announcements in the building to the contrary advising people to remain inside.
9.03am and the second passenger plane crashed into the south tower. Despite fears that the building would fall, Rick returned to the building again, singing Cornish songs [as, once he had done for his unit at the Ia Drang battle in Vietnam] in an effort to keep spirits up.
Rescorla Memorial, Hale,
10.05am, the south tower collapsed and Rick Rescorla lost his life . . .
Rescorla was supposed to be on vacation on September 11, 2001, in preparation for his stepdaughter's upcoming wedding in Tuscany. But he was covering a shift so one of his deputies could go on vacation, and was also scheduled to attend a lunchtime meeting to discuss the lawsuit Morgan Stanley was filing against the Port Authority about the security lapses that led to the 1993 attack.
At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 struck World Trade Center Tower 1 (see September 11, 2001 attacks). Rescorla, following his evacuation plans, ignored building officials' advice to stay put and began the orderly evacuation of Morgan Stanley's 2,700 employees on twenty floors of World Trade Center Tower 2, and 1,000 employees in WTC 5. Rescorla reminded everyone to "...be proud to be an American ...everyone will be talking about you tomorrow", and sang God Bless America and other military and Cornish songs over his bullhorn to help evacuees stay calm as they left the building . . . .
Rescorla had most of Morgan Stanley’s 2,700 employees as well as people working on other floors of WTC 2 safely out of the buildings by the time United Airlines Flight 175 hit WTC 2 at 9:03 a.m. After leading many of his fellow employees to safety, Rescorla returned to the building to rescue others still inside. When one of his colleagues told him he too had to evacuate the World Trade Center, Rescorla replied, "As soon as I make sure everyone else is out". In Amanda Ripley's words:
Moments later, Rescorla had successfully evacuated the vast majority of Morgan Stanley employees out of the burning tower. Then he turned around. He was last seen on the tenth floor, moving upward, shortly before the tower collapsed. His remains have never been found.According to Stephan Newhouse, chairman of Morgan Stanley International, Rescorla was seen as high as the 72nd floor evacuating people, clearing the floors and working his way down. He was last seen heading up the stairs of the tenth floor of the collapsing WTC 2. His remains were not recovered. As a result of Rescorla's actions, all but 13 of Morgan Stanley's 2,700 WTC employees survived . . .