When It Mattered Most

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Rick Rescorla was a soldier, not a musician. But he knew the power of music and he put it to work when it mattered most.

He was born in Cornwall in 1939. Some of his earliest memories were of Cornish songs, but American culture was also in the air as American troops stationed in England prepared for the invasion of German-occupied Europe.

As he grew up, Rescorla was less than a model student, mediocre in literature, undistinguished in music.

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He was supposed to have a music lesson each week, a bout with a recorder still damp from use in the previous class, but an errant note from a fellow student led an angry teacher to confiscate the instruments.

Rescorla auditioned for the school choir and failed.

At seventeen he joined the British Army and served with distinction before moving to New York and enlisting in the US Army, which sent him to Vietnam in 1965, where his bravery led the men in his platoon to nickname him “Hard Corps.” One night near Plei Me in the Central Highlands, as they anticipated an enemy attack, he calmed his men with his baritone renditions of “Wild Colonial Boy” and “Going up Camborne Hill.”

In the thirty-five years to follow, Rescorla returned to the United States, married, raised a family, held a variety of jobs, and survived cancer. He became director of security for Morgan Stanley, headquartered in the World Trade Center.

He insisted that all employees practice emergency evacuation every three months.

On September 11, 2001, when American Airlines Flight 11 struck Tower 1, Rescorla began evacuating 3,700 employees on 20 floors of Tower 2 and WTC 5. Bullhorn in hand, he kept them calm by singing “God Bless America” and the Cornish songs he had learned as a boy.

Of the 3,700 only six perished.

Among them was Rick Rescorla, who was last seen heading up the stairs on the tenth floor of Tower 2.

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