Tomorrow marks 15 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Now, 9/11 serves as a National Day of Service and Remembrance, to honor those whose efforts saved many lives.
To properly honor the heroes of 9/11,
we are all compelled to "do at least one good deed."
In that spirit, I am dedicating this Survival Scout - my channel for sharing preparedness wisdom - to tell the in-depth story of one of 9/11's heroes.
FROM THE MOUNTAINS, TO THE PRAIRIES...
Amidst the chaos and panic in the dark stairwells of the South Tower, there was music.
Meet a True Hero: Rick Rescorla
Over a bullhorn, God Bless America could be heard booming through the floors, sung with a British accent.
The man holding the bullhorn was Rick Rescorla. He is the 9/11 hero I wish to honor today.
Whether or not God Bless America was the song Rescorla sung on that fateful morning is legend or truth is uncertain, but singing was reported by many.
That morning, Rescorla was working as Director of Security for Morgan Stanley, the largest occupant of the South Tower.
However, his path to heroism started many decades before. Here's a brief overview of his incredible story:
As I hinted at earlier, Rescorla was born in a small town in the southwest of England. He left home with the British Army for Cyprus in 1957. In the early 1960s, he served in Rhodesia. Both of these experiences made him a fierce anti-communist.
Then in 1963, Rick resigned from his post and headed for the States. An American soldier friend named Daniel Hill had inspired him to join the U. S. Army and fight in Vietnam.
Rescorla would first become immortalized as a hero in the jungles of Vietnam. It was there where he fought bravely in the Battle of la Drang, which would be described in the book We Were Soldiers Once...and Young.
Rescorla's battalion was ambushed by three full regiments of North Vietnamese. Rescorla and his platoon helped hold off over 2,000 NVA fighters that night. They were able to take up a good position, fight tenaciously...and they were fueled by Rescorla's singing.
Rick mostly sang Cornish songs from his childhood which kept up morale during one of the ugliest wars of modern history. For this and other acts of bravery, Rick was awarded many honors, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
It wasn't until later that Rick became involved in corporate security.
Thus began the second and final heroic act of Rick's story.
THE MAN WHO SAW IT COMING
Rick began working security at the World Trade Center in 1985. After the bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103 in 1988, he asked his old friend Daniel Hill - now a counterterrorism expert - if he thought the WTC was vulnerable to similar attacks.
Rescorla invited Hill to the Towers and Hill asked to see the basement. They walked down to the parking garage, unimpeded by any security. Hill noticed that the support structures were exposed, providing a soft target. This led the two men to report this vulnerability to the Port Authority. Their security recommendations were largely ignored, and in 1993 a truck bomb was detonated below the North Tower.
In 1997, the financial firm Rescorla was working for was merged into Morgan Stanley. This merger made Morgan Stanley the largest occupant of the South Tower, filling up 22 floors.
After his loss of confidence in the Port Authority in '93, he knew that he could not count on an effective emergency response in a true catastrophe. He urged Morgan Stanley to move to New Jersey. They said no.
So, Rescorla trained thousands of Morgan Stanley employees in evacuation procedures, often drilling them with military precision. Many employees made fun of him, even resisted what they deemed was extreme.
It paid off big time one morning in September.
According to reports, Rescorla told the Port Authority to "bug off" (to paraphrase his reportedly expletive-laced response) when they told him not to evacuate his people when the North Tower was struck. Rescorla was one step ahead - he had already issued the evacuation order.
Despite building announcements telling people to remain at their desks - the people of Morgan Stanley were on their way out. When the North Tower was struck and the building lurched, singing could be heard from a bullhorn.
In the end, Rescorla helped almost all of Morgan Stanley's 2,687 employees to safety. Then, he went back in. He was last seen on the tenth floor, heading up.
During the evacuation, Rescorla called his wife and said "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."
Like many others on 9/11, Rescorla gave his life exemplifying truly American values: courage, sacrifice and self-reliance. Rescorla knew that as a security officer at Morgan Stanley, his job was much larger than his title. His military experience and knowledge helped him recognize that.
But you don't have to have a career in the military to save the day. You can learn from men like Rescorla, who drummed this military mnemonic into the folks at Morgan Stanley:
"Proper prior planning and preparation