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Article: Two Towers, One Hero: The Valorous Voyage of Rick Rescorla

Two Towers, One Hero: The Valorous Voyage of Rick Rescorla

Two Towers, One Hero: The Valorous Voyage of Rick Rescorla

You know Rick Rescorla was a total badass when he's front and center on the cover of Moore and Galloway's book "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young." 

Rick Rescorla was born in England on May 27, 1939. By 1943, his hometown of Hayle was overrun with "Yanks" from the 175th Infantry Regiment. Young Rescorla was hooked; he wanted to be one of those U.S. Soldiers. 

A natural sportsman, Rescorla was a force on the field, smashing a school record in the shot put. He was also a damn good boxer, but school? Not his jam. At the first chance, he bolted in 1956, joining the British Army's Parachute Regiment at 17. Next thing you know, he’s in Cyprus during the EOKA Cypriot Insurgency from 1957 to 1960, up to all sorts of clandestine shit. 

From 1960 to 1963, he's in the Northern Rhodesia Police as a paramilitary police inspector, duking it out with commies. Here, he buddied up with an American soldier, Daniel J. Hill—keep that name in mind for later. And, just for kicks, Rescorla started running barefoot in the mornings, getting all hardcore like the local tribesmen in Rhodesia.

Come 1963, Rick hits London, tries on the Metropolitan Police Service for size, but bails. Why? London was fresh out of commies to dick-punch. So, what’s a guy to do? Head to Brooklyn, bunk in a hostel, then enlist in the U.S. Army to get back to some good old commie-stomping. 

Soon, he’s a platoon leader with B Co, 2nd BN, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)—yeah, Hal Moore's crew from "We Were Soldiers." Lieutenant General Hal Moore himself said Rescorla was "The best platoon leader I ever saw." His guys? They called him "Hard Core." 

Ia Drang? That hellhole saw Rescorla in full swing. With NVA troops swarming everywhere, C Company's getting shredded. Rescorla, though? Holds his line like a boss. When his knackered unit gets the call, they plug the gaps C Company left. Many of his guys were green, inches from freaking out. But Rescorla, with that old-school grit, kept them in the game. How? With some classic Cornish folk songs, belted out in a booming British voice. That night, his 100-strong B Company stared down 2,000 NVA soldiers and gave them hell. Rescorla? He took out a machine gun nest with just a grenade. 

After his time as a rifle platoon leader, Rescorla became a "liaison officer". But in actuality he was running a sort of miniature, brigade-level LRRP (long range reconnaissance patrol) team directly for Hal Moore, who was promoted to commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. They called it a Ground Reconnaissance Infiltration Team, Rick liked to call it "GRIT patrol." 150 men tried out for GRIT, 15 passed selection for a real-world trial patrol. From those 15 men, only 3 were selected to accompany Rick on his personally led GRIT patrols deep bwhind enemy territory. Rescorla and his team bridged the gap between division recon and battalion scouts. Rescorla considered this a "cushy staff job."

Been in a recon platoon? "Cushy" ain't the word for it. 

Post-war, he's schooling grunts in reconnaissance at Fort Benning, then teaching Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina. Come 1990, he hangs up his boots as a Colonel. 

Next? Corporate security at the World Trade Center with Dean Witter Reynolds at their offices at the World Trade Center. After the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, Rescorla worried about a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. In 1990, he contacted his old friend Daniel Hill, who was trained in counterterrorism. Rescorla asked him to visit the World Trade Center and assess security. When Rescorla asked Hill how he would attack the building were he a terrorist, Hill pointed to an easily accessible load-bearing column in the unsecured basement and said, "This is a soft touch. I’d drive a truck full of explosives in here, walk out, and light it off." 

That year, Rescorla and Hill wrote a report to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, insisting on the need for more security in the parking garage. Their recommendations were ignored. 3 years later the 1993 WTC terrorist attack occurred almost exactly as they described it. 

Rescorla invited Hill to New York again, where he hired him as a security consultant in order to analyze the building's security. Rescorla suspected that the bomb had been planted by Muslim extremists, possibly Palestinians. Hill grew his beard and visited several mosques in New Jersey, showing up for morning prayers at dawn. 

He took on the character of an Anti-American Muslim to infiltrate and interview the other visitors to the mosques. He concluded that the attack was likely planned by a radical imam at a mosque in New York or New Jersey. Members of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman's mosque, were subsequently convicted of the bombing. 

Rick insisted that Morgan Stanley move from the WTC, because he feared the next attack might come via aircraft, but his recommendations were ignored by Senior Executives. The Senior executives eventually caved into his more reasonable demand that all employees practiced emergency evacuations every three months. Rescorla's strict approach to these drills put him into conflict with some high-powered executives who hated that their daily activities could be interrupted at a moment's notice, but he told them all to take it serious or otherwise they'd burn to death. They listened.

From 1994 to 2001, Rescorla's duking it out with bone marrow cancer, but he's still on the job. 

Then, 9/11. 

Rick witnessed the first Airplane crash into the North Tower. When a Port Authority announcement came over the P.A. system urging people to stay at their desks, Rescorla basically said "fuck that" grabbed his bullhorn, walkie-talkie, and cell phone, and took charge and started evacuating employees. He directed people down a stairwell from the 44th floor, continuing to calm employees after the building lurched violently following the crash 38 floors above.

Rescorla had boosted morale of the employees as they made their escape by singing the same songs he bellowed out to his scared young men during the Vietnam war. Between songs, Rescorla called his wife and told 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 all but 7 of Morgan Stanley's 2,687 employees, he went back into the building. One of his colleagues told him that Rick needed to evacuate too. Rescorla shook his head at the man and replied, "As soon as 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. Rick's actions saved over 2,600 of his fellow Morgan Stanley Employees. 

Lord Death wasn't able to kill him in Cyprus, he couldn't stop Rick in Rhodesia, he failed in all those years in Vietnam. Terminal bone marrow cancer and the '93 WTC attack barely slowed Rick Rescorla down. The Reaper needed to drop an entire skyscraper on this Batshit Brit in order to stop him. 

Bet he's on Fiddler's Green now, beer in hand, waiting for the rest of us.

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