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Saturday, 15 December, 2001, 16:03 GMT
Profile: Hero of the Twin Towers
Graphic: Vietnam War book
A Member of Parliament has called for Cornishman Rick Rescorla to receive a posthumous award for his heroism on 11 September. But courage came readily to the man who enabled thousands to escape from the World Trade Centre.

Susan Rescorla heard the news of yet another tribute to her husband, and was moved to tears.

And yet such plaudits have flowed in to their home in suburban New Jersey, where she watched on television as the twin towers collapsed around him.

His commander in Vietnam, General Harold G Moore, wanted him to be awarded America's Medal of Freedom.

The dumb sons of bitches told me not to evacuate

Rick Rescorla in mobile phone call
Lieutenant Rick Rescorla graced the cover of General Moore's book, We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young.

The book called him "a battlefield legend".

Veterans toasted him at their annual reunion in the autumn.

There has been talk of erecting a statue in Hayle, the humble Cornish town he left as a young man, seeking adventure and even danger.

But Rick Rescorla had told his wife he wanted no glory. Not for him a grand funeral at the Arlington National Cemetery, where so many comrades lay.

Plane struck

A small plaque at a bird park would suffice, he told her, perhaps outside the cage of the American eagle.

His legacy continues in the lives of the thousands he saved on 11 September 2001. One survivor gave birth only two days later.

Susan Rescorla
Susan Rescorla has received many tributes
They lived because Rick Rescorla ignored instructions on a public address system, telling people to remain at their desks after the first plane struck the other tower of the World Trade Centre.

"The dumb sons of bitches told me not to evacuate," he said in a call to a friend as bank colleagues obeyed his commands to leave.

"They said it's just Building One. I told them I'm getting my people the [expletive] out of here."

The comment appeared in a lengthy biography, published in the Washington Post.

Attack warning

The newspaper spoke to many who had known the man, in Cornwall, in Vietnam, and on the day of his demise in New York.

They told of a man of astounding courage, and unrestrained contempt for official complacency.

Rick Rescorla
Rick Rescorla returned regularly to Cornwall
He had warned of the potential for a bomb to be placed in the basement of the World Trade Centre. In 1993, he was the last to leave his tower when a bomb was found.

And he warned the next attack would come by air - though he predicted a cargo plane loaded with weaponry, not passenger jets.

Brokers grumbled, but he made them rehearse evacuation drills every few months. His company, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, lost only six staff on 11 September.

Rick Rescorla grew up in Hayle, unaware the woman he called his sister was actually his mother. He never knew his father.

Brutal battle

He left home for military service, and when Vietnam came he managed to get involved.

Fellow GIs recall the time he stumbled on a cluster of enemy soldiers. "Oh, pardon me," he said, before firing a few rounds and making off.

Rick Rescorla
Rick Rescorla returned to Vietnam with comrades
After midnight, during a lull in the brutal battle of Ia Drang, he sang the Cornish anthem, Going Up Camborne Hill, Going Down. It calmed the nerves of many men expecting to die.

He left Ia Drang with a battered French bugle, seized as a trophy by the Vietnamese. His division came to see it as a talisman.

Afterwards he secured US citizenship, and as an ex-GI, was able to take up a college place.

He earned a master's degree in literature, then studied law. He hid his medals in the attic, and settled down to life as a professor of criminal justice at the University of South California.

Terminal cancer

It did not suit him, so he switched to a career in corporate security.

He took up creative writing, and produced a screenplay about Audie Murphy, America's most decorated hero of World War 2.

Rick Rescorla memorial
Americans joined a memorial service in Cornwall
Even in his 60s, he knew the prospect of premature death. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and given six months to live.

Ironically, when he died, the cancer had faded into remission.

In 2002, We Were Soldiers Once will be released as a film, with Mel Gibson playing General Moore.

Rick Rescorla's part was cut from the story, but the bugle remains.

But for 11 September, he could have looked forward to seeing the movie.

On the day of the attack, he should have been on holiday, heading for his step-daughter's wedding in Tuscany.

But his deputy wanted to visit the Lebanon. Selflessly, Rescorla delayed his own vacation - and died for it.

See also:

14 Dec 01 | England
Honour urged for Cornish hero
05 Oct 01 | England
Farewell to New York hero
26 Sep 01 | UK
British dead 'nearer 200'
18 Sep 01 | UK
Heroic Britons missing
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