August 30, 2011

Rick Rescorla saved thousands on 9/11

Because September 11th is coming up, I wanted to tell a couple of hero stories from what happened that day 10 years ago.  That day, when so many people suddenly needed help, many people became heroes.  Today I will tell you about one hero named Rick Rescorla. 

Rick was born in England near an army base that was staffed with soldiers from America.  He came to idolize the American soldiers so much that he hoped to grow up to be an American soldier.  When he turned 18, he did the next best thing—he joined the British Army.  He served for a few years, becoming an intelligence officer and helping police borders.  When his term was over, he moved to New York, started a YMCA and waited until he could join the US Army.  He got his chance in 1963 when he was 25.  His service took him to battles in Vietnam and earned several awards due to his bravery and compassion for his fellow servicemen.

I mention all of this previous stuff because it sets the stage for his greatest achievements during the 9/11 tragedies.  His service in the military gave him the experience he needed in figuring out dangerous situations, so that he was hired to serve corporations to keep them safe.  He was the director of security for a big company that was headquartered in the World Trade Center. 

In 1992, Rick realized that the World Trade Center towers would make a good target for terrorists, and thought that they might even use a truck filled with bombs to do some damage.  He warned security in the building but they didn't listen.  Just a year later, this prediction came true and Rick was able to evacuate all of the employees for the corporation he served.  He knew all were out because he was the last one of them all to leave.

Rick still saw trouble and urged his company to relocate to another building, but the company executives ignored him.  So Rick did what he could; he forced all of the thousands of his co-workers do emergency drills every 3 months, so they could practice getting out of the World Trade Center quickly. He even made the company executives practice.  If he was responsible for their safety, he'd see that they were prepared for any emergency.

On September 11, 2001 the terrorists indeed attacked the World Trade Center.  Rick and all of his co-workers were ready.  Although the building security told everyone to stay put in the South tower, Rick got on a bullhorn and ordered his company employees to evacuate.  

He had 3700 people from 20 floors at the World Trade center in his company to worry about, and another 1000 people from his company in a nearby building.  He knew that the practice he had forced them to do would pay off now, and wanted everyone to leave calmly and unafraid.  He told everyone to be proud to be an American and that they'd be famous tomorrow for their escape of the attack.  Then he started singing the American National Anthem into the bullhorn.  (I hope he had a good voice…;) 

After the anthem, he sang an English fight song with these words:

Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;
Can't you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warriors' pennants streaming
To this battlefield.
Men of Cornwall stand ye steady;
It cannot be ever said ye
for the battle were not ready;
Stand and never yield!

Indeed, the employees he served were ready.  Because of his foresight and training, all but 7 workers escaped. So he saved almost 5000 people.  The experiences he had as a young man in battle proved so important in the lives of the many people he saved that day.   

Sometimes people have to do things that irritate others in order to help them.  You might think that those who want you to do things like physical therapy are irritating.  But if you do what they say, you will benefit, like the coworkers of Rick Rescorla.  They probably hated practicing leaving the building every few months.  What an inconvenience!  But doing so ended up saving their lives later. 

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