Talk with Rick Rescorla

Rick Rescorla, a brave and resourceful British-born American military officer, became a hero during the 9/11 attacks for his selfless actions in evacuating thousands of people from the World Trade Center.


Who is Rick Rescorla?

Cyril Richard Rescorla, commonly known as Rick Rescorla, was a notable figure in both military and civilian contexts. Born on May 27, 1939, in Cornwall, United Kingdom, Rescorla served as a British paratrooper before moving to the United States. In America, he joined the U.S. Army and served with distinction in the Vietnam War as a platoon leader in the U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry Regiment. His actions during the war were notable enough to be featured in the book "We Were Soldiers Once... And Young" by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway, which was later adapted into the movie "We Were Soldiers."

After his military career, Rescorla transitioned into corporate security. He became the director of security for Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center. Notably, due to his military experience and keen understanding of security and threat assessment, he anticipated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the potential for a larger scale attack.

Rick Rescorla is best remembered for his heroic actions during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. He is credited with saving thousands of lives by implementing evacuation procedures he had previously established and drilling despite official advice to stay put after the attacks began. Rescorla ensured the evacuation of over 2,700 Morgan Stanley employees but tragically lost his own life when he re-entered the building in an attempt to rescue more people. His legacy is remembered as one of courage, leadership, and profound foresight in crisis situations.

What was Rick Rescorla's family background?

Rick Rescorla was born Cyril Richard Rescorla on May 27, 1939, in Hayle, Cornwall, in the United Kingdom. His family background was relatively modest, rooted in the working-class environment of Cornwall. He grew up surrounded by the traditions and histories of his community, including tales of the Cornish people's bravery and resilience. This upbringing instilled in him a strong sense of duty and courage, which were evident in his later life and career, especially in his military service and his actions during the events of September 11, 2001.

What awards did Rick Rescorla receive for his heroism?

Rick Rescorla received numerous commendations for his bravery and actions across different stages of his life, particularly for his military service in Vietnam and his actions during the 9/11 attacks.

  1. Military Awards: Rescorla's heroism in the Vietnam War earned him several prestigious military awards, including the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. These decorations were recognition of his bravery, leadership, and service during combat operations.

  2. 9/11 Heroism: For his actions on September 11, 2001, Rescorla was honored posthumously with several awards and recognitions, though they were more in the form of tributes and memorial acknowledgments rather than formal state or federal military awards. Due to his efforts in safely evacuating nearly 2,700 employees of Morgan Stanley from the World Trade Center before the towers collapsed, he became widely celebrated as a hero. Various memorials and awards were named in his honor to commemorate his selfless acts and leadership.

Institutions, organizations, and even artworks have celebrated his legacy, ensuring that his bravery and leadership continue to inspire future generations. His story has been detailed in books and documentaries, and educational institutions have established scholarships in his name, all serving as a testament to his heroic impact.

How did Rick Rescorla's actions influence his colleagues?

Rick Rescorla's actions had a profound influence on his colleagues, particularly through his leadership and decisive actions during critical situations. As the security director for Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center, Rescorla implemented rigorous evacuation drills, insisting that employees practice them regularly despite their initial reluctance. His foresight and strict adherence to these drills were credited with saving nearly 2,700 lives on September 11, 2001.

His insistence on preparedness and his calm demeanor during the actual events of 9/11 provided his colleagues with the guidance and confidence they needed to evacuate the building safely. Rescorla's leadership style, which combined empathy with a no-nonsense approach to safety, made a lasting impression on his colleagues, encouraging them to prioritize safety in their professional and personal lives.

Moreover, his heroic act of returning to the building during the attacks, ultimately leading to his death, underscored his commitment to his duty and to the people under his charge, profoundly impacting those who knew him and serving as a powerful example of leadership and sacrifice.

How did Rick Rescorla's actions on 9/11 affect future security protocols?

Rick Rescorla's actions on September 11, 2001, greatly underscored the critical importance of thorough emergency preparedness and robust security protocols in large commercial buildings, particularly skyscrapers. Rescorla, who was the director of security at Morgan Stanley, located in the World Trade Center, implemented rigorous evacuation drills and procedures that ultimately led to the successful evacuation of over 2,600 employees on the day of the attacks.

Following the tragic events of 9/11, and largely influenced by Rescorla's example, several key changes and enhancements were made to security and emergency protocols:

  1. Increased emphasis on evacuation drills: There became a greater focus on regular and realistic evacuation drills for all building occupants. Rescorla's regular drills were credited with saving many lives, highlighting the importance of preparedness and familiarity with evacuation procedures.

  2. Investments in communication systems: Communication was a major issue during the 9/11 attacks. Rescorla's use of a bullhorn and his pre-established emergency communication strategies were pivotal. In response, many buildings upgraded their communication systems to ensure they could function in various disaster scenarios and maintain clear channels of communication during emergencies.

  3. Comprehensive risk assessments: Post-9/11, there was a broader adoption of the risk assessment processes that Rescorla advocated. Companies and security professionals began to pay more attention to not only external threats but also the infrastructural vulnerabilities of their buildings.

  4. Integration of security systems: Advanced and integrated security systems, including surveillance cameras, access control, and alarms, became more standardized. Rescorla’s holistic approach to security—considering both human and technological elements—became a model for future security strategies.

  5. Inter-agency cooperation: Learning from the breakdowns in communication and coordination during the 9/11 attacks, there was a stronger push for better cooperation and information sharing among different emergency services, and between the private and public sectors.

  6. Crisis management training: Companies started investing more in training their employees not just for evacuations but also in crisis management, providing them tools and knowledge to better react in various emergency situations.

Rescorla's proactive measures and decisive actions demonstrated the profound impact that comprehensive, well-practiced emergency and security protocols can have on saving lives during disasters. His legacy continues to influence security management practices globally, ensuring that the safety and preparedness of buildings and their occupants are given paramount importance.

How many people did Rick Rescorla help evacuate on 9/11?

Rick Rescorla helped evacuate approximately 2,700 people from the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. As the head of security for Morgan Stanley, Rescorla implemented evacuation procedures that he had developed and practiced, insisting on regular drills despite their unpopularity. This thorough preparation was crucial in saving many lives on that day, as it ensured that employees could evacuate quickly and efficiently when the attacks occurred.

Did Rick Rescorla know his history?

Rick Rescorla was keenly aware of historical events and their significance, particularly in the context of military and security challenges. He was a veteran of the Vietnam War, where he served as a Platoon Leader, and his experiences there significantly shaped his views and career. Later, as the director of security for Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center, Rescorla applied lessons from his military background to anticipate and prepare for potential threats, including terrorist attacks.

Rescorla's knowledge of history, combined with his personal experiences, played a critical role in his successful foresight and actions during the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. His proactive measures, including regular evacuation drills and his insistence on preparedness, were rooted in a deep understanding of historical patterns of conflict and security. Therefore, it can be said that Rick Rescorla not only knew his history but also adeptly applied it in practical and lifesaving ways.

Why was Rick Rescorla called Hard Core?

Rick Rescorla was nicknamed "Hard Core" by his fellow soldiers due to his tough, unyielding nature and his outstanding leadership abilities, particularly evident during his military service in the Vietnam War. Rescorla, born in Cornwall, England, and later a U.S. immigrant and citizen, served as a platoon leader in the U.S. Army. His fearless demeanor and rigorous approach to military operations inspired both respect and admiration among his peers. This nickname encapsulated his reputation as a stoic and exceptionally competent soldier, whose methods and demeanor were seen as rigorous and uncompromising, qualities which he carried into his civilian career in security and emergency management.

What did Rick Rescorla say?

Rick Rescorla is famously known for his heroism during the 9/11 attacks and his insistence on safety and preparedness. Some of his most quoted words were spoken to reassure his colleagues and friends on the phone during the attacks. He said, “Stop crying. I have to get these people out safely. If anything happens to me, I want you to know I've never been happier. You made my life.” These words reflect his selflessness and dedication to others' safety even in the face of extreme danger.

What did Susan Purcell say about Rick Rescorla?

Susan Rescorla, neé Purcell, was Rick Rescorla's wife. She spoke highly of her husband, often reflecting on his heroism, strong character, and the profound sense of duty he exhibited throughout his life, particularly during the events of September 11, 2001. In interviews and public statements, she has shared insights into his personality, his unwavering commitment to the safety of others, and his impactful actions on 9/11 when he helped evacuate nearly 2,700 employees of Morgan Stanley from the South Tower of the World Trade Center, ultimately saving many lives at the cost of his own. Susan has often highlighted Rick's foresight regarding security threats and his persistent efforts to implement rigorous evacuation drills, which played a crucial role in the high number of survivors from Morgan Stanley that day. Her memories and reflections contribute significantly to the legacy of Rescorla as a hero and a devoted, loving husband.

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