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Vietnam Veteran who disobeyed orders to evacuate and gave up his life to Save 2700 on 9/11

Rick Rescorla went above and beyond to save thousands if lives as the Twin Towers collapsed during 9/11
PUBLISHED MAY 13, 2024
Cover Image Source: YouTube/Congressional Medal of Honor Society
Cover Image Source: YouTube/Congressional Medal of Honor Society

9/11 was a pivotal event in history that completely changed the world as we know it by acting as a trigger for the war on terror. Never before had the US been devastated by an attack on such a large scale, as 3,000 lost their lives and 6,000 others were left injured and scarred for life, according to the Department of State. The tragic day also saw the rise of heroes who selflessly in the face of death helped others to get to safety amidst the collapse. One of them is Rick Rescorla, a war veteran who saved the lives of almost 2,700 with his experience and astuteness. CMOHS shares that Rick was working as Vice President of Security at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. in the South Tower of the World Trade Center in 2011. As per ATI, he was not supposed to be on shift that day but stepped in for a colleague, and his bravery saved a lot of lives that day. 

Image Source: NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 19: American flags mark names on the National 9/11 Memorial ahead of the 22nd anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center on August 19, 2023, in New York City. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)
Image Source: NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 19: American flags mark names on the National 9/11 Memorial ahead of the 22nd anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center on August 19, 2023, in New York City. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

Rick Rescorla joined the British army at the age of 16 and then moved to the US before fighting in Vietnam. In 1963, he finished his basic training at Fort Dix in New Jersey and soon got promoted to the rank of Officer. The adventure junkie found himself smack dab in the middle of the "Valley of Death," which was the first major engagement between U.S. forces and the People’s Army of North Vietnam. He kept his comrades' spirits up by singing songs. “We were all sitting in our holes with our knees knocking, we have dead guys all around us, and here comes Rick singing Cornish songs,” recalled radio operator Sam Fantino. Years later he used the same technique to calm down the crowd at the World Trade Center when they were panicking inside a collapsing building.



 

Prior to the terrorist attack, Rescorla had inspected the Twin Towers for security weaknesses. He had informed the authorities, that the basement parking garage left the towers vulnerable to attack. His warnings were ignored, and all his fears came true when in 1993, a truck bomb exploded in the parking garage, killing six. Thereafter, he decided to take matters into his own hands and designed a strict disaster contingency plan. Rescorla regularly rehearsed the plan with the employees, which allowed him to get 2700 people out of the tower when the calamity on September 11, 2001. After his employees made their way out of the tower, he began tending to others. He took the call to head back up the stairs and guide other individuals to safety. For his actions, he was awarded the 2009 Citizen Service Above Self Award.

Image Source: WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 07: U.S. President Donald Trump presents the Presidential Citizens Medal to Susan Rescorla, wife of Richard Cyril Rescorla, during an East Room event at the White House November 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Richard Cyril Rescorla, former director of security for Morgan Stanley, was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal posthumously for his implementation of evacuation plans that help to save thousands of lives during the 9/11 terror attack on the World Trade Center. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Image Source: WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 07: U.S. President Donald Trump presents the Presidential Citizens Medal to Susan Rescorla, wife of Richard Cyril Rescorla, during an East Room event at the White House November 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Richard Cyril Rescorla, former director of security for Morgan Stanley, was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal posthumously for his implementation of evacuation plans that help to save thousands of lives during the 9/11 terror attack on the World Trade Center. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Susan, Rescorla's wife after seeing the news called up his office. At first, she was reassured that Rescorla was fine. Later when the man realized he might not make it, he called her to say, “Stop crying, I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.” Rescorla was last seen on the 10th floor of the South Tower moments before it collapsed but his body was never found. In 2019, he was posthumously rewarded with the Presidential Citizens Medal.

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