By Rob Jennings
Daily RecordMORRISTOWN - The last time anyone saw Richard Rescorla, he was racing up and down stairs at the World Trade Center’s south tower, singing "God Bless America" through a bullhorn and calming nerves as he shepherded people to safety.
Five days later, the 62-year-old Morgan Stanley security supervisor is still missing. His family doggedly holds out hope that he will turn up alive, citing the survival skills Rescorla learned in law enforcement and the military.
"If there was an inch of safe space," insisted Rescorla’s 23-year-old daughter, Kim, "he’d find it."
According to his wife, Susan, many survivors have credited Rescorla and his unit for leading them out of the crumbling tower. Morgan Stanley had 3,700 employees in the World Trade Center; only a dozen or so were lost.
"We have heard countless stories of great courage and compassion," Philip J. Purcell, chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley, said in a statement. "If it weren’t for the heroism of a number of people, the toll would have been much higher."
Susan Rescorla said Purcell had called to praise her husband and offer the family his help. The missing Morgan Stanley employees include two other security officers, Kim Rescorla said.
When the first hijacked plane struck the north tower, loudspeaker announcements told employees in the company’s offices between the 43rd and 73rd floors to stay put. Rescorla deemed that bad advice - prophetically, as it turned out - and began leading workers down the stairs.
"We have reports of him as low as the 10th floor and as high as the 72nd. He was everywhere," his daughter said.
When television broadcast news of the first strike shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday, Susan Rescorla called her husband’s office. She was frantic when she couldn’t reach him.
But minutes later, she said, he called her on his cell phone.
Her husband, she recalled on Saturday, told her not to cry, that he was helping people leave that building, and that he loved her.
Some time afterward - either just before or just after the second plane hit - Rescorla once again headed up the stairwell. Along with rescue workers, he was going against the crowd - everyone by that time was fleeing.
Kim Rescorla said she was told that he told others he was going back for stragglers. "He was afraid more people had listened to the loudspeakers and stayed in their offices. He wouldn’t leave anyone behind."
Later in the week, the Rescorla family filed a missing persons report in Manhattan. They informed officers of any identifying marks that could help them find Rescorla, and were given a case number.
"I’m never going to give up hope," said Susan Rescorla, who married her husband two years ago.
Kim and Trevor, 25, are Rescorla’s children from his first marriage, to Betsy Rescorla.
Tuesday began normally for Richard Rescorla. He was in an especially upbeat mood, buoyed by recent test results indicating he was winning his battle with prostate cancer, his wife said.
Rescorla left his Morristown home for the 6:30 a.m. train to Manhattan. "He was all dressed up because he had a luncheon that day," said Kim Rescorla.
Kim Rescorla learned that her father’s building was on fire while in class at Seton Hall University’s law school.
From several witnesses, family members heard how Rescorla was resolutely stoic in the face of unimaginable horror.
"He was saluting the flag. He was singing songs. He was singing ‘God Bless America,’" Susan Rescorla said.
His daughter said he used singing in Vietnam to calm other soldiers in difficult situations.
Rescorla grew up in Great Britain, where he served in the British army, and saw duty in South Africa, Cyprus and Zimbabwe. He briefly served as a police officer in London.
He moved to the United States when he was 23, his daughter said, and joined the Army. In Vietnam, he won several medals, including the Purple Heart, and retired as a colonel in 1989.
Rescorla joined Morgan Stanley in the early 1980s. Until Tuesday, his greatest test was the 1993 car bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed six people and injured thousands but failed to bring down the towers.
"One woman came down, and actually wanted to go back up and get her purse, " Kim Rescorla recalled her father saying of that attack eight years ago. "But he wouldn’t let her. He went back up and got it."
Rescorla also is known for his avid interest in literature. His daughter said that, as a hobby, he wrote screenplays about his experiences in South Africa and on war hero Audie Murphy.
"He has a wicked sense of humor and a heart of gold," said Rescorla’s first wife, Betsy. "He is highly intelligent, very literary. When he was doing a job, the job came first."
"You don’t spend 22 years with someone and stop caring," she added. "It doesn’t work that way. When we parted, we said we’d always be friends."
Rescorla’s son, Trevor, said he was not surprised by eyewitness accounts that portrayed his father as a hero.
"He wanted to keep his people safe. He would do anything for them," he said.
Kim Rescorla said that despite the grim circumstances, she was not giving up.
"I am very optimistic, because my father … there’s never been anything he couldn’t do," she said.
Rob Jennings can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> or (973) 989-0652.
COURANT SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2002
By SUSAN CAMPBELL
In 1967, Nicholas J. Harding was a promising young soldier in Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga., where he trained under Rick Rescorla, an Englishman who'd already seen combat in Cyprus, Rhodesia and Vietnam.
Later, Harding would go to Vietnam, get wounded, heal and then go back again. He would collect war stories of his own. But in ’67, Harding and his classmates were in the thrall of Rescorla, a popular (and feared) instructor. Behind his back, soldiers called him Mad Dog.
You may not have heard of Rescorla, but if you’ve seen the new movie “We Were Soldiers,” you know part of his history. Rescorla does not show up in Mel Gibson's movie about the 1965 Ia Drang campaign in Vietnam, but he was there in real life.
In the book on which the movie is based; retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway make nearly 40 references to the tough-as-nails Englishman, a fighting machine who took communism personally. He fought like a fury and sang pub songs - “Garry Owen,” “Wild Colonial Boy” - to keep the boys’ spirits up. “Lt. Rick Rescorla, as usual,” wrote Moore and Galloway, “was in the middle of it all.”
Along with communism, Rescorla could not stomach the death of his men. His men would walk through fire for him, as he would do for them.
But at Fort Benning, he talked little about his battle experience. That was left to other officers, and his modesty appealed to Harding. Later, he ran into Rescorla at Fort Benning. They had coffee. Rescorla asked Harding if he had taught him anything useful. The list was long. Rescorla taught Harding to control his emotions in battle, to be modest and to respect and lead his soldiers.
He had also given him a lesson no other officer had: to respect his enemy.
Harding left the Army after 10 years, and though he kept up with Rescorla’s movements, he was savvy enough to know that Rescorla had touched many more men than himself and that the Englishman-turned-American-citizen probably grew tired after years of hearing from recruits-gone-to-men.
In fact, Rescorla never spoke much of battles. Living in New Jersey, his second wife, Susan, rarely heard the stories. Like many soldiers, talking about war took him to a place he’d rather not go.
Harding heard Rescorla was doing corporate security in New York. He thought often about tracking him down but didn't. Then, on Sept.11, terrorists hit. Rescorla’s security office was on the 44th story of the World Trade Center’s south tower. That day, although he didn't know precisely where Rescorla was working, Harding said to himself, “I’ll bet Mad Dog is in the thick of it.”
In fact, he was. Rescorla was ushering employees out of the south tower with a bullhorn, commanding attention and respect, as he had done on the battlefield so long ago. Employees say he was singing pub songs into the bullhorn - again, to keep spirits up. He called his wife and later used his cellphone to report that all employees were out of the building.
And that was it. That was the last anyone ever heard of him.
A long, beautiful story in a recent New Yorker magazine said Rescorla most likely went back into the building to make sure no one was left behind. That would be in keeping with the way he acted in battle. But Harding wonders, too, if Rescorla, the indomitable Cornish soldier, had gone in to see if he could find clues about the perpetrators. He was that way, too.
Harding, now a West Hartford lawyer who specializes in environmental law, thinks of those days occasionally - maybe more now since the 11th. He read the February article and was moved to write to the magazine. They cut the letter a little. They took out the nickname “Mad Dog,” but the rest of it was left intact.
As were the memories of the indomitable Cornish soldier.
“It was no movie,” wrote Moore and Galloway of Vietnam. “When it was over, the dead did not get up and dust themselves off and walk away. The wounded did not wash away the red and go on with life unhurt. Those who were miraculously unscratched were by no means untouched.”
Susan Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 860-241-6454.
4 CHERRY LANE - BOX 128
BROOKSIDE, NJ 07926-0128 USA
TEL (973) 543-1059 * EMAIL email@example.com
January 6, 2005
My husband, Rick Rescorla, was one of the 3,000 Americans murdered by terrorists on 9/11/01. Rick was Vice President of Security for Morgan-Stanley/Dean-Witter, the largest tenant in the World Trade Center. His heroic actions on the day of the attack, along with his extraordinary foresight and preparation, saved the lives of 2,700 people. His story has been told on television and radio - in newspapers and magazines - and in the book Heart Of A Soldier, by Pulitzer Prize winner James B. Stewart. Rick is also on the cover of another book, We Were Soldiers Once... And Young, written by General Hal Moore and Joseph Galloway. You see, 9-11 was not the first time Rick had distinguished himself. 9-11 was just the last heroic chapter of his heroic life.
I am so very proud to have had him in my life. I want so to have his legacy live on. Two years ago Rick's friends and I decided to establish The Richard C. Rescorla Memorial Foundation in Rick's memory, to keep present the magnitude of Rick's life and to promote the virtues Rick lived by – duty, honor, courage, and patriotism. This is a non-profit foundation. All contributions will be tax deductible.
Our first project is to erect a life-size bronze statue of Rick at the new National Infantry Museum to be built at Ft. Benning, Georgia. We have commissioned a prominent sculptor, Edward Hlavka, to create this work. The bronze will take a year to cast and will cost approximately $100,000. We have already raised a third of the monies. We need the rest, and are appealing to all those who would like to see a true American hero have this honor. Your contribution would be greatly appreciated.