Rick Rescorla was a native of England who moved to the United States to serve in the Army during the Vietnam war. In Vietnam he figured prominently in the ferocious battles recounted in We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. (A haunting photograph of a haggard Rescorla — taken by Peter Arnett — adorns the cover of that book.) He was a natural leader.
In civilian life he took a series of jobs culminating in head of security for Morgan Stanley. Rescorla worked for Morgan Stanley in the World Trade Center, where the company occupied twenty-two floors of the south tower; Rescorla himself worked on the forty-fourth floor.
Long before the first World Trade Center attack in February 1993, Rescorla had become preoccupied with the security of the World Trade Center offices. After the 1993 attack, Rescorla developed a security and evacuation program for the Morgan Stanley employees. On 9/11, Rescorla led the evacuation of thousands of Morgan Stanley employees to safety, although he himself died in the collapse of the south tower as he sought to ensure that none of his charges had been left behind.
Rescorla’s story is memorialized in the book by James B. Stewart, Heart of a Soldier. The book has just been released in paperback and is incredibly absorbing (I’m about halfway through it). The book grew out of Stewart’s New Yorker article about Rescorla. That article is available online as “The real heroes are dead.” (“The real heroes are dead” is what Rescorla would say in response to recognition of his heroism on the battlefield in Vietnam.) His story should be known and remembered.
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