Lifestyle & Human Interest

Army Veteran Responsible for Saving Nearly 2,700 Lives on September 11. This Is His Story


The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon devastated a nation and left thousands dead or wounded. Yet it also created heroes, many of whom laid down their own lives.

A Plus cataloged some of them. They included NYPD Officer Moira Smith, the first person to report the attack, and Welles Crowther, an investment banker who helped others evacuate from the World Trade Center’s south tower.

Todd Beamer, who attended my alma mater, famously said, “Let’s roll,” before attacking the hijackers of Flight 93. And then there’s Rick Rescorla.

At first, Rescorla seems an odd pick for an American hero. Why? Well, he was British by birth.

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The Daily Mail reported that he was born in Cornwall, England. He came to the United States at the age of 23, naturalized, and fought in the Vietnam War.

America Matters Media stated that Rescorla, who became head of security for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in 1997, was always bothered by the shoddy evacuation of the World Trade Center in 1993 when terrorists detonated a truck bomb underneath the facility’s north tower.

He even recommended that Morgan Stanley find another office space since the World Trade Center was an inviting target for terrorists. However, the lease obligated the company to continue using the space.

So Rescorla began to prepare. According to Cornwall Live, he ran regular evacuation drills.

The training paid off. When the first plane struck the tower, a call came for everyone to stay at their desks, but Rescorla immediately started marching people out.

The New Yorker reported that he called his Army buddy, Dan Hill, who’d helped him assess the security situation at the World Trade Center.

Rescorla told Hill that he’d blown off the New York Port Authority’s insistence that people remain where they were, saying, “Piss off, you son of a b—-. Everything above where that plane hit is going to collapse, and it’s going to take the whole building with it.”

Right about then, Hill heard his friend begin to sing. It was an old military tactic to keep people calm, and Rescorla’s voice boomed out in a Cornish folk tune:

“Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming; / Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming? / See their warriors’ pennants streaming / To this battlefield.

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“Men of Cornwall stand ye steady; / It cannot be ever said ye / For the battle were not ready; / Stand and never yield!”

Rescorla himself never did yield. He saved roughly 2,700 people that day and ran back inside to look for stragglers even after virtually all of Morgan Stanley’s employees were safely out.

The Daily Mail said that his wife, Susan, called him as he headed back in. She said, “I was told that Rick was trying to get everyone out of the building.

“Then I called him on his mobile phone and he said he was trying to get people out of the building. He told me to stop crying and said ‘If anything happens to me, I just want you to know that you made my life.’”

It was the last she would hear from him. Soon after Rescorla started up the stairs, the second tower collapsed, killing him and everyone else in it.

Yet almost 3,000 souls owe their very lives to this single man’s bravery. May the memory of Rick Rescorla’s name and deeds never fade.

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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