10 Sep 2006

Colonel Cyril Richard “Rick” Rescorla (May 27, 1939 — September 11, 2001)

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Rick Rescorla in Vietnam, 15 Nov 1965
Captain Rescorla in action at Ia Drang, Republic of Vietnam, 15 November 1965.
photograph: Peter Arnett/AP.

Born in Hayle, Cornwall, May 27, 1939, to a working-class family, Rescorla joined the British Army in 1957, serving three years in Cypress. Still eager for adventure, after army service, Rescorla enlisted in the Northern Rhodesia Police.

Ultimately finding few prospects for advancement in Britain or her few remaining colonies, Rescorla moved to the United States, and joined the US Army in 1963. After graduating from Officers’ Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1964, he was assigned as a platoon leader to Bravo Company of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, Third Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Rescorla’s serious approach to training and his commitment to excellence led to his men to apply to him the nickname “Hard Corps.”

The 2nd Battalion of the 7th Cavalry was sent to Vietnam in 1965, where it soon engaged in the first major battle between American forces and the North Vietnamese Army at Ia Drang.

The photograph above was used on the cover of Colonel Harold Moore’s 1992 memoir We Were Soldiers Once… and Young, made into a film starring Mel Gibson in 2002. Rescorla was omitted from the cast of characters in the film, which nonetheless made prominent use of his actual exploits, including the capture of the French bugle and the elimination of a North Vietnamese machine gun using a grenade.

For his actions in Vietnam, Rescorla was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star (twice), the Purple Heart, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. After Vietnam, he continued to serve in the Army Reserve, rising to the rank of Colonel by the time of his retirement in 1990.

Rick Rescorla became a US citizen in 1967. He subsequently earned bachelor’s, master’s, and law degrees from the University of Oklahoma, and proceeded to teach criminal law at the University of South Carolina from 1972-1976, before he moved to Chicago to become Director of Security for Continental Illinois Bank and Trust.

In 1985, Rescorla moved to New York to become Director of Security for Dean Witter, supervising a staff of 200 protecting 40 floors in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. (Morgan Stanley and Dean Witter merged in 1997.) Rescorla produced a report addressed to New York’s Port Authority identifying the vulnerability of the Tower’s central load-bearing columns to attacks from the complex’s insecure underground levels, used for parking and deliveries. It was ignored.

On February 26, 1993, Islamic terrorists detonated a car bomb in the underground garage located below the North Tower. Six people were killed, and over a thousand injured. Rescorla took personal charge of the evacuation, and got everyone out of the building. After a final sweep to make certain that no one was left behind, Rick Rescorla was the last to step outside.


Rescorla on 9/11
Directing the evacuation on September 11th.
Security Guards Jorge Velasquez and Godwin Forde are on the right.
photograph: Eileen Mayer Hillock.

Rescorla was 62 years old, and suffering from prostate cancer on September 11, 2001. Nonetheless, he successfully evacuated all but 6 of Morgan Stanley’s 2800 employees. (Four of the six lost included Rescorla himself and three members of his own security staff, including both the two security guards who appear in the above photo and Vice President of Corporate Security Wesley Mercer, Rescorla’s deputy.) Rescorla travelled personally, bullhorn in hand, as low as the 10th floor and as high as the 78th floor, encouraging people to stay calm and make their way down the stairs in an orderly fashion. He is reported by many witnesses to have sung “God Bless America,” “Men of Harlech, ” and favorites from Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. “Today is a day to be proud to be an American,” he told evacuees.

A substantial portion of the South Tower’s workforce had already gotten out, thanks to Rescorla’s efforts, by the time the second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, struck the South Tower at 9:02:59 AM. Just under an hour later, as the stream of evacuees came to an end, Rescorla called his best friend Daniel Hill on his cell phone, and told him that he was going to make a final sweep. Then the South Tower collapsed.

Rescorla had observed a few months earlier to Hill, “Men like us shouldn’t go out like this.” (Referring to his cancer.) “We’re supposed to die in some desperate battle performing great deeds.” And he did.


His hometown of Hayle in Cornwall has erected a memorial.

Hayle Memorial


2,996 is a project put together by blogger Dale Roe to honor each victim of the September 11, 2001 attacks. 3,061 blogs are committed to posting tributes to each victim. Never Yet Melted’s tribute is to Rick Rescorla.

17 Feedbacks on "Colonel Cyril Richard “Rick” Rescorla (May 27, 1939 — September 11, 2001)"

Dave from London

Like Mr Rescorla, I have served in the Intelligence Corps of the British Army and then the Metropolitan Police. He is an American hero and a British hero and an example to us all of how to live a selfless life.


I remember meeting you this way! AND – you’ve really made a wonderful tribute. Rick “Cyril” must have an ear to ear grin. One of the few REAL mean remaining in this world was lost that day STILL putting everyone else before himself. True passion and dedication is rare. Thanks for the honor you’ve given Cpt. Rescorla – a citizen by patriotic choice – not because of an empty wallet. Citizenship through desire and honest effort. Thank you David.


Thank you for writing such a wonderful tribute and remembering how he lived.

Yes, he sang operetta’s in times of stress and challenge as well as in times of exciting challenges.

I sometimes encouraged his singing by starting off with “I am the very model of a modern Major-General.”

Again thanks!

Flight Pundit » Blog Archive » Rodney James Wotton, a tribute to life

[…] Col. Cyril Richard ””Rick”” Rescorla (WTC) Never Yet Melted […]


Thank you for a stirring tribute to a true man. As long as America has friends like him we will triumph.


I’ve read several tributes to Rick Rescorla since his death. They all focus on his courage and dedication.


Thank you for this beautiful tribute to a true American hero. Men like Rick are one in a million.


Mr. Rescorla was both a true american hero and a prophet of the horrors of terrorism. As a member of a corporate security force, I consider him and the lost members of his security staff as fallen brothers. May god bless his courageous soul and those of all the innocent victems and their families.


My dad works for Morgan Stanley and he was in the WTC on 9/11. Rick Rescorla is the reason why my dad is alive today.

ronald simpson

I cannot believe I had not hear this story till today. Where has my head been buried? He was an incredible man, a fine example of what ALL Americans should be. He was right though. This may make me sound callow or stupid, but, warriors like him should not die slow painful deaths.


from a fellow brit,i just want to say how proud of you i am.


He was an American hero, a British hero, and a hero to all the people on this planet who are on the ‘right’ side (the good side, the good people).

R.I.P. Rick



Amazing. Just watched a tribute to Rick on the History Channel. What a life and what a hero!

Clearly the presence of men like this in the unit in part explain the survival of of the 2nd Battalion at Ia Drang. One has to conclude that Col. Moore must be especially proud of this soldier.

If there is a SAS or special forces in the army of God, you would expect to find a spirit like Rick’s serving there. Peace be with his family and friends.


I have read a fair bit about 9-11 these last ten years and only today did I first come across the name of Rick Rescorla, about three hours ago. I have done nothing else but read about him since.
Well, I’ve cried a bit too. Not for him. For his loved ones left behind, and a little for myself, for how poorly I measure up to him.

Jerry Rosales

“A man that mattered” and will always be known as a true hero !!!!!!!! Thank You Sir !


Thank you Yahoo news for bringing this man’s life and efforts to light. I am a 23 year Naval Officer and his story is nothing short of inspiring. Ricks’ dedication to others throughout his life is a testimony to service for mankind.


Truly magnificent what this man has done to 2500+ people. RIP.


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