Rick Rescorla wasn’t born an American; he chose our country. Rescorla was born a British subject and served with the British Army joining at the age of 16. In 1963 Rescorla moved to America and enlisted in the US Army. After basic training, he was sent to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. Rescorla was sent to Vietnam and in 1965, served as a platoon leader in the 7th Calvary.
Rescorla was a platoon leader when the 1st and 2nd Battalions of 7 Cav were dropped into the meat grinder of Ia Drang Valley. That battle is the subject of several books, but likely best remembered in the movie “We Were Soldiers Once…And Young.” He was loved by his men for his bravery and calm reserve. While he and his platoon were pinned down by the enemy, he sang songs to his men, calming them in the face of death and despair. He was an inspiration. The “Cornish Hawk” was called the “best platoon leader I ever saw” by his commanding officer. He earned the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart. The photo of him in the la Drang Valley is one of the iconic images from Vietnam.
36 years after La Drang Rescorla was still serving, but as head of security for Morgan Stanley. Morgan Stanley housed people in Tower 1 World Trade Center and Building 5. He should have been on vacation on September 11, 2001, but he was covering for a colleague. When the first plane hit Rescorla knew what had happened. He ignored the advice of building officials who were telling people to stay put and began an immediate evacuation of those under his charge. Armed this time with just his bullhorn and a whistle, Rescorla began his calm and orderly evacuation, first of Building 1 then Building 5. When it seemed appropriate, like he did with frightened young men in Vietnam, he sang songs to calm those he was leading to safety. He exalted his evacuees by telling them, “Be proud to be an American – everyone will be talking about you tomorrow.”
After Building 5 was secured Rescorla returned to sweep WTC 1. “No Man (or Woman) Left Behind.” His duty called. He was last seen on a 10th-floor stairway, still with a bullhorn in hand — thinking not of himself, but of others. His remains were never found. Rescorla’s selfless bravery undoubtedly saved hundreds if not thousands of lives. One estimate puts it at 2,000 souls saved.
In three days we will honor those who died. Twenty years ago, heroes stepped forward. Heroes saved lives. Flight 93 fought back. Rick Rescorla sang songs while he guided frightened people to daylight and told them, “Be proud to be an American – everyone will be talking about you tomorrow.” In three days, talk about Rick Rescorla and the other brave men and women who saved lives and who fought back.