Saturday, April 4, 2020

Rick Rescorla: Fighting Celt

Rick Rescorla
1939 - 2001

In these incredibly dark times when health care workers around the world are risking their lives in service to their fellow man in the struggle against this grim disease it makes sense to consider the lives of others who have made the supreme self sacrifice (See also my earlier blog on the Coronavirus...  One of these was a Celtic Fighter with strong connections to Cornwall and New York City...Rcik Rescorla.  Here is his chapter in our forthcoming book 101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur...

Two nations' armies
served, thousands saved on the day
of the two towers.

Stuart Laycock

Coming Soon...

"Rick Rescorla was a soldier of the old school, a Celtic Fighter, who fought in two nations’ armies and was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11, while heroically saving the lives of around 2,700 people.

Rescorla was born was born in 1939 in England. He grew up in the seaside town of Hayle, a working-class village in Cornwall. The Cornish are proud of their Celtic heritage, which they celebrate with music and sport. As a young boy, Rescorla saw American soldiers training for the D-Day invasion. He was an avid wrestler and rugby player.

His family could not afford to send him to university, so at seventeen, Rescorla left Cornwall, heading to London to join the British Army. Scoring high on military aptitude tests, he was assigned to an army intelligence unit and deployed to Cyprus—the first of many overseas duties. After completing his tour in the army, Rescorla joined the Rhodesian Police force, serving in Kitwe. In Rhodesia, he met Dan Hill, an American who would become a lifelong friend. Also while in Rhodesia, he shot and killed a 350-pound lion, keeping the lion’s tooth on a necklace as a souvenir.
In 1963, Rescorla emigrated to New York and enlisted in the US Army. He received basic training at Fort Dix in New Jersey prior to being posted to Fort Benning in Georgia, where he attended Officer Candidate School. Rescorla was the platoon commander of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division. Following in the footsteps of Custer, who also served in the 7th Cavalry, Rescorla would soon be deployed to Vietnam, though his “mount” was helicopters, not horses.
Rick Rescorla Statue
Fort Benning, GA
In 1965, Rescorla’s platoon was helicoptered in to fight the Battle of la Drang. His commanding officer, Lieutenant General Hal Moore, later described Rescorla as “the best platoon leader I ever saw.” By all accounts, Rescorla was a tough, selfless soldier during his tour in Vietnam. He won multiple decorations for his service, including the Purple Heart, the Silver Star, and two Bronze Stars. He would sometimes sing to his troops to keep them calmer in battle.

He returned to the States in July of 1966 and continued to serve in the US Army Reserves until his retirement at the rank of colonel in 1990. Rescorla attended the University of Oklahoma in Norman, at first hoping to become a writer. He earned a law degree instead and went on to teach Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina.

In 1972, he married Betsy Nathan, with whom he had two children. (They divorced after the kids had grown.) In order to support his growing family, Rescorla took more lucrative corporate-security jobs in the financial industry. He worked for Continental Illinois Bank and Trust, headquartered in Chicago.

In 1984, Dean Witter hired Rescorla to be their director of security. He moved to New York to work from Witter’s base in the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

In 1992, Hal Moore published We Were Soldiers Once … and Young: Ia Drang—The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam. The cover of Moore’s book featured a photograph of Rick Rescorla. At a later reunion, Rescorla teased his old commander that the title should have been We Were Soldiers Once … and Thin!

On February 26, 1993, Ramzi Yousef, a veteran of al-Qaeda training camps, detonated a bomb in the southern corner of the garage below the World Trade Center. Yousef hoped to bring both towers down, with one structure crashing into the other, killing thousands of people. The explosion ripped through six stories of structural steel and sent smoke clouds billowing through the South Tower where Rescorla was working. Six people were killed and over a thousand were injured, but the Towers did not fall.

Following the 1993 attack, Rescorla was deeply concerned about the vulnerability of the Twin Towers to terrorist attack. He advocated that Dean Witter relocate their office and staff to New Jersey but was turned down. He instituted regular emergency drills among the Dean Witter staff, in spite of considerable grumbling.

In 1997, Dean Witter announced their merger with Morgan Stanley. Rescorla became a vice president in charge of security for Morgan Stanley. A year later he was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, for which he was undergoing treatments at the time of his death. In 1999, Rescorla married Susan Greer. In April of 2001, Rescorla was inducted into the OCS (Officer Candidate School) Hall of Fame in Fort Benning, Georgia.
September 11, 2001
On September 11, 2001, Rescorla showed up early for work, as was his routine. At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The explosion was heard and felt in the nearby South Tower, in which Morgan Stanley had its offices. The PA system blared warnings, urging office workers to remain at their desks, but Rescorla had a different idea. He used a bullhorn and calmly began herding his Morgan Stanley colleagues and others toward the stairs. He was heard to say, “Today is a proud day to be an American.”  Around 9:03 a.m., a United-Airlines-operated Boeing 7676-200 crashed into the South Tower.

Rescorla sang to steady his nerves and that of those around him, giving a Cornish twist to an old Welsh tune, “Men of Harlech.”

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

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

A friend told Rescorla that it was time to leave. Rescorla responded, “I will as soon as I’ve got everybody else out.”  He never made it, and his body was never recovered.

Out of Morgan Stanley’s 2,687 employees in the Twin Towers that day, only nine (including Rescorla and three independent contractors working for the firm) were killed. Rescorla has been credited with saving around 2,700 lives on 9/11.
Rick Rescorla Monument
Hayle, UK
The extraordinary life of this Fghting Celt, who touched and saved so many, has been memorialized in many ways. A statue of Rescorla was dedicated outside the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning in 2009. In 2011, the San Francisco Opera presented Heart of a Soldier, an opera based on Rescorla’s life. A memorial can also be found in his hometown of Hayle in Cornwall."

101 Fighting Celts: From Boudicca to MacArthur is coming Soon! 

You can find signed copies of our books at 
these web sites...


1 comment:

Kevin Haw said...

What a fabulous honorable warrior!!!! Thanks for your service and sacrifice. Chris thanks for keeping Rick’s memory alive!!!