Rick Rescorla was a great man who, along with his still unnamed assistants, died a heroic death on 9/11.
As the Democrats work to downplay 9/11, it’s up to us to remember that day and the people who made a difference.
Rick Rescorla was born in post-War, Labourite England, yet he somehow managed to be fiercely anti-communist. He didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. At sixteen, he joined the British military and fought against communists in both Cyprus and Rhodesia.
When the battle between the free world and the communists moved to Vietnam, he moved too, relocating to America, and joining the U.S. Army. He fought ferociously in Vietnam, making a name for himself as a warrior’s warrior. (That’s Rescorla on the cover of the much-lauded We Were Soldiers Once…And Young: Ia Drang The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam)
After returning to America from Vietnam, Rick completed his education, taught, and eventually moved into the corporate world, ending up as Morgan Stanley Dean Witter’s VP of security. His new address — World Trade Center, south tower, 44th floor.
Rescorla was working in the World Trade Center in 1993 when a truck bomb exploded in the basement. This bombing was one of those “small” terrorist attacks I mentioned above, akin to San Bernardino or the Pulse nightclub in Florida. Most everyone saw it as a criminal matter and moved on. Not so Rick Rescorla. Warrior to the bone, he understood that this was the first small shot in a big battle.
What Rescorla also understood, unlike just about anyone else in America, was that the Twin Towers were irresistible targets for terrorists, meaning that the tenants were sitting ducks. Rick couldn’t change the towers’ attraction to terrorists, but he could change the tenants’ vulnerabilities—at least the tenants over whom he had control.
Under Rick’s leadership, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter conducted regular evacuation drills. Every employee knew how to get out of the building. You can easily imagine employees over the years trying to avoid the drills (“Hey, I’ve got a lot of work to do here”) and jokingly complaining as they were forced to comply (“One little bomb blows up a few years ago, and I’m having more fire drills than my kid in elementary school.”). The jokes stopped first thing in the morning on 9/11.
When the planes hit the Towers, Rick instantly knew what had happened. He didn’t know the details, but he understood the core issue—the World Trade Center had once again become a terrorist target. He and his team swung into gear. Singing “Men of Cornwall” (his version of “Men of Harlech“) at the top of his lungs, Rick and his team rescued approximately 2,700 Morgan Stanley Dean Witter employees. Only three employees were unable to follow Rick and his team to safety.
Sadly, it wasn’t just those three employees who died. Never leaving their posts, Rick and two of his security team went back into the South Tower one last time, to make sure they’d done their jobs. They had indeed done their jobs—but they didn’t make it out again. The Tower collapsed, taking them with it.*
Rick may have died, but his memory and what it stands for live on. He is America’s fighting spirit. He is proof that you don’t have to be born on American soil to have American virtues. He is what real American diversity looks like. It is enough to love freedom and to be willing to fight for that freedom. He is American initiative, ignoring bureaucratic paralysis, and acting in the face of danger. He is American sangfroid, singing his flock to salvation. He was a warrior and a hero. He is us.
*I’ve never learned the names of the two security team members who never left Rescorla’s side and who died with him. They were as brave as he and deserve the same accolades.