Remembering Rick Rescorla, the hero who died on 9/11

Rick Rescorla spent his entire life fighting evil and 17 years ago today, that fight culminated with his saving thousands of lives, but losing his own.

Rick RescorlaThis is the final entry in my annual commemoration of three victims of 9/11, each of whom died a hero, facing down evil, facing down fear, and changing the world.

Rick Rescorla

The murderous frenzy unleashed on 9/11 is an awkward size.  As the Left at home and abroad demonstrates relentlessly, it if had been a smaller attack — along the lines of Fort Hood or San Bernardino — we would have been told that it was simply the act of a crazy person whose psychosis led him to misunderstand the “Religion of Peace.” Had it been monumentally bigger — say, the size of Hitler’s Poland invasion — we all would have easily recognized it as “a war,” and would have treated it accordingly, both strategically and emotionally.

Since 9/11, however, Americans have grappled with the best way in which to handle things when nineteen Muslim men, acting according to the strict dictates powered by money from Saudis, Iranians, and Iraqis, hijack four planes and kill 2,996 people. Actual events have proved that, in the post-modern world, our nation had no template to define our emotional response following 9/11.  We had a vacuum.

The one thing you can say with certainty about America today is that, when there is a vacuum, politics will fill it.  Following a short frenzy of national mourning, the nation divided itself into two oppositional viewpoints with regard to what 9/11 means.  The Left (of course) took refuge in a Walt Kelly worldview:  “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

During his presidency, Obama made sure we understood that Western values are uniquely undeserving. One year, he told us that 9/11 wasn’t just our tragedy, which means that our efforts to mourn prove that we’re not only bullies we’re also self-centered bullies.  The message from the Left is always clear:  We Americans don’t deserve to mourn.  Not only was it not about us, it was our fault!

The Obama view — that is, the Leftist view — sees just two narrow categories of victims on that fateful day:  those who died and those who killed.  The rest of us were guilty, and we have to work hard to expiate that stain from our collective conscience.

For 17 years now, and with increasing frenzy now that Trump is in the White House, the schism that set in soon after 9/11 has dominated American political discourse. The details may vary, but from the Left, especially on America’s college campuses, the tone is unchanging.  Americans are bullies.  We’ve bullied the Muslims so much over the past few decades, it was inevitable that they, prodded beyond bearing, turned on us.  And while it’s sad that 2,996 non-combatants (mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters) had to die, that’s what happens when you give your allegiance to — and, worse, make your money from — a system that is inherently parasitical.

That’s the Leftist view.  There are, thankfully, other voices in America.  Those of us who reject the Leftist paradigm see ourselves neither as evil-doers nor as victims (although we were victimized by evil).  We are warriors.  George Bush understood that when he addressed the Emergency Rescue Workers the site of the World Trade Center:

That’s also what George Bush understood when he took America to war in Afghanistan, which had sheltered the killers and their brothers-in-arms.  When we are attacked, we fight back.  And when we are attacked by a shadowy organization that takes succor from various Islamic tyrannies around the world, we challenge those tyrannies.  It’s not pretty, it’s not surgically neat, it’s not politically correct, but it is necessary.  We mourn our dead and then we hunt down their killers.  We have met the warrior and he is us.

All of which brings me to Rick Rescorla, a warrior among warriors, not just on 9/11, but throughout his entire life, a life devoted to racing towards the battlefield to fight against those who would deny people their unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Although born and raised in England, Rick was and is the essence of America.

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Remembering Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, who died 17 years ago today

This post honors Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, one of the heroes who saved America from an even worse disaster than the attack on the Twin Towers.

Lauren Catuzzi GrandcolasTrue immortality being the Divine’s purview, we humans are limited to only two types: genetics and remembrance. It is the latter that concerns me.

Every year on 9/11, I remember three people who died that day: Brian Ahearn, a firefighter who gave his life to save others; Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, who calmly faced death on United Flight 93; and Rick Rescorla, whose preparedness and bravery saved thousands of lives. I’ve published these three posts annually for eleven years, with slight adjustments every year as necessary to update them.

Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas

I met Lauren when I was at law school. She was still an undergraduate, but roomed with a friend of mine who had been one of her sorority sisters. The very first time I saw Lauren, she’d been experimenting with hair colors, and had hair that was this beautiful combination of all sorts of different shades of red. I was very impressed. The next time I saw her, several months later, I remarked that I loved her red hair. I still remember the quizzical look Lauren shot me. What I hadn’t noticed (which says a lot more about me than about Lauren) is that she’d reverted to her natural, and very lovely, chestnut color. But Lauren, being a remarkably charming and kind woman, did not call me out on my foolishness.

Lauren finished her undergraduate studies while I was still at law school. She then headed out to San Francisco to start her career. A year later, I finished law school and returned to San Francisco, so I looked her up, and we had lunch together. She was working as an aerobics instructor at a fitness center in Marin, but was trying to find meatier work to match her abilities. I put her in touch with the recruitment coordinator at my law firm and Lauren ended up with a job.

Being a recruitment coordinator was the perfect job for Lauren. To be an effective law firm recruiting coordinator, you need to be social, intelligent, attractive, organized, hard-headed, and self-assured. Lauren was all of those things. Long after I left the firm, she was still working there, bringing together the best law school grads with a solid law firm.

Although we saw each other regularly in the hallway, and always stopped to chat, Lauren and I never became close friends. I admired her a great deal (especially her organizational abilities) and I always had the feeling she liked me, but we never clicked. I think of her often, though, and for a very funny reason: Every time I clean the kitchen sink, she pops into my mind. Continue reading

Remembering Lt. Brian Ahearn, who died on this day, 17 years ago

To properly honor the dead, we must remember them — and Lt. Brian Ahearn, a New York City firefighter, is someone whom I honor every year on September 11.

Brian AhearnEvery year on September 11, for the past 12 years, I’ve reprinted the memorial posts I wrote for Lt. Brian Ahearn, a New York firefighter; Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, a United flight 93 passenger (and friend); and Ric Rescorla, a man who had confronted evil, recognized it, and planned for it. This year will be no different.

Lt. Brian G. Ahearn

My son, when he was little, was obsessed with superheroes. One of his favorites was Superman. After all, when you’re a little boy, battling your way through the world, what could be more exciting than the possibility of being “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”?

For months, I was bombarded daily with questions about Superman’s ability to withstand extreme temperatures, his flying speeds, his ballistic capabilities and, most importantly, his bravery. It was with this last that my son and I ran into a conceptual problem.

My son thought Superman was brave because he unflinchingly waded into situations involving guns, and flames, and bad guys. I tried to explain to him that the fictional Superman, while good, is not brave. He’s good because he’s committed to fighting evil; he’s not brave, however, because, being super, he takes no risks (and no, we won’t go into the small risk that some evil genius bad guy managed to get hold of kryptonite).

Superman’s indestructibility means that his heart never speeds up, his gut never clenches, and he never pauses for even a moment to question whether the potential benefit from confronting evil or danger is worth the risk. In other words, if facing a gun is as easy as sniffing a rose, there is no bravery involved.

The truly brave person is the one who knows the real risks in a situation but still moves forward to save people, to fight a good battle, or to remedy an intolerable situation. The attacks against America on September 11, 2001, revealed the true superheroes among us — those New York firefighters who pushed themselves past those second thoughts, those all-too-human hesitations, and sacrificed themselves in the hopes of saving others. Lt. Brian G. Ahearn was one of those superheroes.

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Some thoughts about Stephen Paddock and the Las Vegas massacre *UPDATED*

Since Stephen Paddock killed 59 people and injured 500 more, his motive is still a mystery. Progressives want gun control through. Let’s talk about that.

Stephen Paddock Mandalay Bay Las Vegas Shooting GunsEnough time has passed since news broke that Stephen Paddock committed a massacre at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas broke that the facts seem to have settled a bit. Now is therefore as appropriate a time as any for me to blog about it. Before I share my thoughts with you, here are the facts as I understand them:

Stephen Paddock was a 64 year old retired accountant and “ordinary” white guy. He had made a lot of money in real estate, although I’m not clear whether he had a lot of money when he died; he lived in a $400,000 house outside of Las Vegas, which is a valuable house, especially if he had equity in it; he had an attractive live-in girlfriend; he liked to fly; he liked to hunt; and he liked to gamble, although it’s not clear whether his gambling losses exceeded his gains. Oh, and one more thing: His father spent time on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list and was described as a “psychopath.”

Those who knew Paddock, including his family, were absolutely stunned that he would spend several days holed up in a Las Vegas hotel room with a huge cache of weapons that were either automatic or were jury-rigged for automatic fire; that he would have enough ammo to fill a suitcase; that he would have the ingredients for a bomb in his car; that he would fire into a crowd of concert-goers, killing 59 and injuring over 500, many of whom remain in serious condition; and that he would then turn a gun on himself. But it appears that this is exactly what Paddock did.

Regarding the guns, two Nevada dealers who sold him guns have stated that Paddock passed all federal background checks. Moreover, at one of the gun stores, the weapons he bought a rifle that was not fully automatic and a shotgun that lacked the range to do the shooting he accomplished from the 32nd floor. Paddock also apparently had at least one fully automatic weapon in the room and there seems to be no way he could have come by that legally.

Motive? Currently unknown. ISIS is claiming that Paddock converted to Islam a few months ago and carried out this massacre as his own personal jihad. Usually, ISIS has been accurate in claiming a connection between a killing and its loathsome ideology. However, with such a spectacular massacre as this one, it’s entirely possible that ISIS is piggy-backing so it can grandstand about the fearsome universality of its murderous message.

It’s just as likely that Paddock was crazy. Indeed, the part about locking himself up in a high place and then committing suicide reminded me strongly of Charles Whitman, who committed a mass shooting at the University of Texas in Austin back in 1966. (I attended UT, so that massacre is never far from my mind.) Whitman also barricaded himself in a high place, shot as many people as he could, and then killed himself when the police closed in. He too gave no indications before he cracked that he was cracking and his motive has never been determined.

From the first moment news broke about the shooting, though, I knew two things with certainty: Progressives would use the shooting as a platform to demand gun control and Progressives would engage in incredible hate-speech about the victims. The first, of course, was a given, but why did I predict the second to myself? Easy — the shooting took place at a country music concert. To Progressives, country music means God, guns, and Trump. It is their triumvirate of hate. Continue reading

Remembrances from September 11, the day America changed

It’s been 16 years, but for those of us who remember September 11, 2001, the memories are still raw. Here’s a round-up of interesting and moving articles.

September 11 2001 Twin Towers 9/11These are articles and videos about September 11, both remembrances and analyses, that caught my eye during my morning reading. Some are old, some are new, and all are good. The links are not in any particular order.

I’m not the only one remembering Rick Rescorla. You can find a great post at PowerLine, along with links to other remembrances.

Robert Avrech notes that we have met this enemy before — Islam is Amalek, the slayer of innocents. Whitewashing that doesn’t change the reality; it just destroys our defenses.

Danny Lewin was a technological genius — and also the first victim on September 11 as he sought to prevent the attack.

Gerard Vanderleun republishes the contemporaneous notes he made on and immediately after September 11. They are visceral, compelling reading.

Glenn Reynolds’ remembrance today is a bit of plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose affair. The Left seems determined to ensure that we experience a terrorist version of Groundhog Day in perpetuity.

James Lileks understood a long time ago that the end of the world after September 11 would be a long, drawn-out, painful affair. Continue reading