10 Years Later and No One Has Forgotten
All of us here at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) are taking a moment on 9/11 to reflect on that tragic day in 2001.
In fact, Americans everywhere are asked to spend a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. That’s when the first aircraft slammed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
To the passengers and crews of all four flights hijacked that day, including #93 that crashed in Pennsylvania, the military and civilian personnel killed in the Pentagon, and all the people lost in the World Trade Center (WTC): You are not forgotten.
While you are spending a moment, I’d like to give you something to reflect on. It is a story that you may not have heard but one that needs to be told.
Rick Rescorla is an American hero and a decorated Vietnam veteran. His name is not on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall because he came home from that war only to perish on a day when so many other Americans also died: September 11, 2001.
On that day, 2,605 individuals in the World Trade Center’s twin towers died when the buildings collapsed after after terrorist hijackers flew into them. But, because of Rescorla’s skill, preparedness and bravery, nearly 2,700 employees of Morgan Stanley did not die that day.
As head of security for Morgan Stanley, the largest tenant in the World Trade Center, Rescorla worked out an evacuation plan for the people at Morgan Stanley. At his insistence, all employees practiced this emergency evacuation, walking down 44 flights of stairs, every three months.
It’s a good thing they did. When WTC Tower 1 was hit at 8:46 a.m. on September 11, Rescorla ignored the official advice to stay put and began the orderly evacuation of Morgan Stanley’s 2,700 employees on 20 floors of WTC Tower 2, and 1,000 employees in WTC 5.
When Tower 2 was hit by an airplane at 9:02 a.m., Rescorla had already evacuated most of the employees, as well as many others, to safety—in less than 20 minutes.
When told to evacuate himself, Rescorla replied, “As soon as I make sure everyone else is out,” and went back in. He had been seen on floors as high as the 72nd that morning. Right before Tower 2 collapsed, he was spotted on the 10th floor, heading upward.
September 11 was not the first time that Rescorla’s bravery and skills had been tested. A platoon leader in the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), he served during the Vietnam War and took part in the bloody Battle of Ia Drang in 1965, which is described in the book and movie, “We Were Soldiers Once … And Young.” Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, who took part in the battle and co-authored the book, described Rescorla as “the best platoon leader I ever saw.”
His actions on September 11 came as no surprise to Vietnam veterans, who see his early recognition of the dangers at the WTC and his insistence on being prepared as directly attributable to his military service. He was calm under fire, both when he served in Vietnam and when he led evacuation efforts on Sept. 11. He sang songs to keep people calm as they exited the towers, just as he had for his platoon in the Ia Drang Valley.
Of Morgan Stanley’s 2,700 employees, all but six made it out that day. Four of those were Rescorla and his three deputies, who were evacuating the buildings.
Many considered Rick Rescorla’s bravery to be exemplary on September 11. But, in fact, it was just another chapter in a life punctuated with acts of courage and loyalty.
It’s been 10 years, but we shall never forget that day or those we lost, just as we’ll never forget our Vietnam veterans and all those who have served – and are serving – in our armed forces.
I hope you’ll share this story with your friends and family so when all of us join in that moment of remembrance of all our heroes, they’ll also remember Rick Rescorla.
P.S. It’s these types of heroes that will be honored at the soon-to-be constructed Education Center at The Wall in Washington, D.C. The Center will allow visitors to honor our bravest warriors from Bunker Hill to Baghdad and from Vietnam to New York’s Ground Zero. These stories need to be told to future generations so no one will ever be forgotten.
|Established in 1979, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and promoting healing and educating about the impact of the Vietnam War. Authorized by Congress, its most recent initiative is building The Education Center at The Wall, an underground facility near the Memorial that is designed to add faces to all the names on The Wall and tell their stories to future generations. Other Memorial Fund initiatives include educational programs for students and teachers, and a traveling Wall replica.|
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