By Kris Grant
Col. Rick Rescorla (U.S. Army–Retired), who died while attempting to save others on 9/11, will be honored with a plaque installation at the Veterans Week celebration at the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial at noon on Saturday, Nov. 10. If not for the proactive work of Col. Rescorla, there could have been thousands more who died on 9/11. The former head of security for Morgan Stanley, based in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, had foreseen, predicted and prepared for both the 1993 basement bombing and the 9/11 attack of the Trade Center.
Mark Larson will emcee the program. RADM Len Hering (USN-Retired) will give the keynote address. Music will be provided by Navy Band Southwest Brass Quintet, accompanied by Vince Foster, soloist with the San Diego Opera.The observance will also include a T-34 fly-over, with the Beechcraft T-34 Mentors supplied by the Warbirds West Air Museum at Gillespie Field in El Cajon.
Rescorla will be commemorated by his best friend, Daniel J. Hill, who served with him in the British Army in Northern Rhodesia, and went on to enroll with Rescorla in the U.S. Army’s Officer Candidate program. Also speaking on Rescorla’s heroism will be Mark Kremers, director of Morgan Stanley in La Jolla.
Rescorla was commissioned an army second lieutenant in 1963 and a few months later became a platoon leader in the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam. He was a hero of the Battle of the La Drang Valley, earning the Silver Star.
After Rescorla’s death on 9/11, Lt. General Hal Moore proclaimed him “the best combat platoon leader I know of from two wars.” This was before Moore released his book, “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young,” which became a movie starring Mel Gibson.
Col. Rescorla left the U.S. Army in 1968, went to college and became lawyer, teaching criminal justice, and then went into bank security. He rose to the pinnacle of the profession, ending as 1st Vice President for Security of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Corporation at the World Trade Center in New York.
After the 1988 bombing of
Pan Am Flight 103
, Rescorla worried about a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. In 1990, he and Hill wrote a report to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owned the site, insisting on the need for more security in the parking garage. Their recommendations, which would have been expensive, were ignored, according to
James B. Stewart
's biography “Rescorla, Heart of a Soldier,” published by Simon & Shuster in 2002.
Rescorla's fears were borne out by the 1993
World Trade Center bombing
, after which he gained credibility and authority in his role as head of security for the giant wealth management firm, then known as Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. The firm occupied 22 floors of the South Tower, beginning with the 43rd floor. Another 1,000 employees worked at 5 World Trade Center, one of the buildings that surrounded the towers.
Rescorla was famous for his security drills. They were thorough, they were long and they were time-consuming. They disrupted meetings and deadlines. Naturally, they annoyed a few people from time to time.
But Rescorla insisted that all Morgan Stanley staff prepare for “the worst.” And that preparation paid off on Sept. 11, 2001. After escorting many of his colleagues to safety, Rescorla could have gotten himself out of harm’s way and gone on to live a life full of accolades. But he made a different choice — the choice to sweep every one of Morgan Stanley’s floors in the South Tower to save more people. He paid for that choice with his life.
About Mt. Soledad's Memorial Plaques
• Construction is nearly complete on the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial walls, which will bear 3,200 black granite plaques commemorating U.S. veterans, living or deceased, from all branches of the U.S. military.
• The walls have now been capped, and the association is working with the city to bring electrical power to the site by spring 2013.
• Approximately 80 spaces for plaques remain on the walls. For information about honoring a veteran with a plaque, call Mt. Soledad Memorial Association office at (858) 459-2314.