Tuesday 24 October 2017

9/11 hero foresaw terror attacks

Rick Rescorla in his US Army uniform.
Rick Rescorla in his US Army uniform.
Susan Rescorla, widow of Rick Rescorla who died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre

The widow of a British-born hero of 9/11 choked back tears as she recalled speaking to him for the last time before he died trying to rescue survivors.

Susan Rescorla broke down as she told how she said goodbye to her husband Rick, 62, for the last time before he died in the South Tower of the World Trade Centre.

She revealed she still gets emails from people whose lives have been touched by the story of his heroism.

British-born Vietnam veteran Rick, who was in charge of security for investment bank Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in the Twin Towers, died after going back for stragglers after he had already helped 2,700 people evacuate the building safely. His body has never been found.

In an interview with BBC radio she struggled to control her emotions as she described their last telephone conversation.

American Mrs Rescorla said: "He said to me so calmly, 'You have to stop crying. I have to get everyone out'.

"He was so calm and reassuring, he told me, 'You made my life', but I knew at that moment that it was all over."

She said a few minutes later she was watching events on television and talking to a family friend on the telephone when she saw the second plane strike the building her husband was in.

"I hung up and ran out of the house screaming," she said.

Rick, who was born in Cornwall foresaw the terrorist attacks, with his warnings featuring in a Channel 4 documentary in 2005, entitled The Man Who Predicted 9/11. He made staff at the bank regularly practise escape drills which later saved their lives.

Born Cyril Richard Rescorla, he served with the British Army - where he changed his name to Rick - and as a police officer before emigrating to the United States in the 1960s. As Second Lieutenant Rescorla of the 7th Cavalry he saw action in the battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam in 1965, earning the nickname "Hard Core" and being decorated with medals including the Silver Star for bravery.

A picture of him in action forms the cover of We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young, a book which was later turned into the 2002 Mel Gibson film We Were Soldiers.

On returning to civilian life he went to university and had a number of jobs before joining Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, living with second wife Susan in New Jersey but often coming back to his native Cornwall to visit friends and family.

He survived the 1993 car bomb attack on the World Trade Centre and in its aftermath was one of the few people who realised the iconic buildings' vulnerability to terror attacks from the air.

He shouldn't have been working that day. He was meant to be on his way to Europe for his stepdaughter's wedding but went in to cover for a colleague.

A picture, taken after the attack started, shows Rick, megaphone in hand, guiding staff down stairs to safety. Workers recalled Rick singing patriotic songs, including a Cornish adaptation of Men Of Harlech as he led them down.

On March 25, 2009, he was posthumously awarded the Above & Beyond Citizen Medal - the most prestigious civilian award in the United States.

Mrs Rescorla set up the Rick Rescorla Foundation in his memory, with the organisation erecting several memorials to his memory in his adopted country.

A statue of Rick, based on the cover of We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young, is on permanent display on the Walk of Heroes at the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia, the town where he trained.

In Hayle a memorial was erected hailing his heroics on September 11.

Mrs Rescorla added: "All of the 10 years have been filled with the most incredible tributes to him.

"You cannot imagine the people who have touched my life because of Rick."

She said the emails were from people "telling me how much they admired him".

The main event in the UK to commemorate the landmark anniversary will be the ceremony at London's September 11 memorial garden, which was opened by the Princess Royal in 2003.

In what has become a poignant tradition, relatives will read out the names of the British victims of the attacks and lay a white rose for each one on a memorial stone beneath bronze plaques listing them all.

Memorial services will also be held at St Paul's Cathedral in the morning and Westminster Abbey in the evening.

In New York there will be a concert at the British Memorial Garden site in Hanover Square, half a mile from Ground Zero, to commemorate the 67 UK victims.

Rick's death will also be marked in an unusual way - with an opera based on his life.

The San Francisco Opera will give a world premier to Heart Of A Soldier on September 10, at the city's War Memorial Opera House.

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