Leader of a 9/11 Evacuation
Cyril Richard “Rick” Rescorla (May 27, 1939 – September 11, 2001) was a retired United States Army officer of British birth who served with distinction in Northern Rhodesia as a member of the Northern Rhodesia Police (NRP) and as a soldier in the Vietnam War, where he was a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.
At 8:46 a.m. on the morning of September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 struck World Trade Center Tower 1. Rescorla heard the explosion and saw the Tower burning from his office window. When a Port Authority announcement came over the P.A. system urging people to stay at their desks, Rescorla ignored the announcement, grabbed his bullhorn, walkie-talkie and cell phone, and began systematically ordering Morgan Stanley employees to evacuate, including the 1,000 employees in WTC 5. He directed people down a stairwell from the 44th floor, continuing to calm employees after the building lurched violently following the crash of the second plane 38 floors above. Morgan Stanley executive Bill McMahon stated that even a group of 250 people visiting the offices for a stockbroker training class knew what to do because they had been shown the nearest stairway.
Rescorla had boosted morale among his men in Vietnam by singing Cornish songs from his youth, and now he did the same in the stairwell, singing songs like one based on the Welsh song “Men of Harlech”. Between songs, Rescorla called his wife, telling her, “Stop crying. I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.”
After successfully evacuating most of Morgan Stanley’s 2,687 employees, he went back into the building. When one of his colleagues told him he too had to evacuate Rescorla replied, “As soon as I make sure everyone else is out”. He was last seen on the 10th floor, heading upward, shortly before the tower collapsed. His remains were never found. At the National 9/11 Memorial, Rescorla is memorialized at the South Pool, on Panel S-46.