When a hijacked plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, employees of the South Tower were told to stay inside.
Rick Rescorla of Morristown knew that was lunacy.
He is credited with evacuating 2,700 employees of Morgan Stanley, where he worked as vice president for security. He kept searching for people inside even after a plane struck the South Tower. Rescorla perished when it collapsed. He was 62.
“Though Rick has left this Earth, we will ensure that the memory of his deeds will never, ever be forgotten. His memory will forever endure,” President Trump said this week, announcing that Rescorla will be honored with the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian award.
“Thank you, Rick,” Trump said, gesturing to the sky at a ceremony outside the Pentagon.
A native of Great Britain, Rescorla was a retired U.S. Army colonel who earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam.
His story was told in Heart of a Soldier, a 2003 book by James B. Stewart that inspired an opera in 2012.
Rescorla met his wife Susan when she was walking her dog on Dorado Drive in Morristown. Both were in their late 50s, divorced with children. Rescorla liked to quote Shakespeare and Kipling, and he wrote poetry for Susan. They married in 1999.
Now living in Basking Ridge, Susan Rescorla told The Star-Ledger: “I did a lot of reflecting in the last few days. I really believe it’s God’s will that they made this wonderful tribute to Rick. My husband would be saying he’d want to include all the first responders.”
Retired Army Colonel Rick Rescorla, who on 9/11 was the head of security at Morgan Stanley, sacrificed his own life that day to save approximately 2,700 people.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 11, 2019
The documentary The Man Who Predicted 9/11 describes how Rescorla, in the wake of the 1994 underground bombing of the World Trade Center, anticipated the aerial attacks that followed. Colleagues described him as fanatical about planning and executing evacuation drills.
Morgan Stanley offices occupied floors 43 through 74 of the South Tower. The second hijacked passenger jet smashed just above, from floors 77 and 85.
“I was probably a block and a half away when the building came down. And my first thought was, Rick never made it out. Because Rick would have never, ever have left that building until he accounted for every Morgan Stanley employee,” says one woman in the documentary.
“He did not on that day think of himself at all. He thought of all of us. And we are here because of him,” says another.
Nine Greater Morristown citizens were among the 64 Morris County residents killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Presidential Citizens Medal was established in 1969. Only the Presidential Medal of Freedom ranks higher. No date has been announced for the Rescorla presentation.
Video clip: ‘The Man Who Predicted 9/11’: