Retired Col. 'Rick' Rescorla gave his life saving others on 9/11

By Frank Misurelli, Picatinny Arsenal Public AffairsSeptember 17, 2015

Retired Col. 'Rick' Rescorla gave his life saving others on 9/11
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. --- With the passing of another 9/11 remembrance, few people know of the self-sacrifice of Retired Army Reserve Col. Cyril Richard "Rick" Rescorla, a Morristown resident who gave up his life to save others at the World Trade Center.

A native of Hayle, Cornwall, United Kingdom, Rescorla enlisted in the British Army in 1957, serving as a paratrooper. He was stationed in Cyprus and in Northern Rhodesia until his discharge in 1960.

He joined the Northern Rhodesia Police from 1960 to 1963, during which he forged a life-altering friendship with an American Soldier who inspired him to join the U.S. Army and fight in Vietnam.

Rescorla joined the U. S. Army in 1963 and took his basic training at Fort Dix. He attended Officer Candidate School and airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia.


Upon graduation he was assigned as a platoon leader in the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division serving under Lt. Col. Hal Moore and fought in the battle of the Ia Drang.

Although Rescorla is not depicted in the 2002 movie "We Were Soldiers," his picture is on the book jacket cover of "We Were Soldiers Once.. and Young."

Moore described Rescorla as, "the best platoon leader I ever saw" and his Soldiers nicknamed him "Hard Core," for his bravery in battle and compassion towards his men.

For his heroism, he received the Silver Star, Bronze Star with one oak leaf cluster and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

Like so many returning Vietnam vets, Rescorla left the Army and enrolled in college.

He later pursued a law degree with his G.I. Bill, taught criminal justice and wrote a text book.

He left school to work in corporate security for Dean Witter Reynolds at the World Trade Center and moved to Morristown in 1985. He also continued his service in the U.S. Army Reserve attaining the rank of colonel.

After the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, he had concerns about the security of the World Trade Center. His concerns came true after the 1993 attack of the World Trade Center.

He recommended to Morgan Stanley, which had merged with Dean Witter, that the company move out of the World Trade Center because it was still a target. His advice was not followed, so he instituted emergency evacuations every three months.

At 8:46 a.m. on 9/11, American Airlines Flight 11 struck the World Trade Center North Tower. He was watching from his office on the 44th floor in the South Tower. He ignored the announcement from the Port Authority not to exit the building and began ordering workers to evacuate.

Rescorla is credited with saving 2,687 employees.

Before entering the damaged building, he called his wife and told her, "Stop crying, I have to get these people out safely. If something happens to me, I want you to know I've never been happier. You made my life."

At one point when he went back in, one of his coworkers told him to evacuate, and he responded, "As soon I make sure everyone else is out."

He was last seen on the 10th floor, heading upward shortly before the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m. His remains were never found.

Three week later, he was declared dead.

When the best-selling book "We Were Soldiers Once…And Young" was published and the movie "We Were Soldiers" was released, Rescorla refused to read the book or watch the movie, commenting, "The real heroes are dead."

His words came true that day on 9/11.

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