A man who was convinced the Twin Towers would be targeted in a terror attack led 2,700 people to safety from the World Trade Center before being killed when he went back in looking for stragglers.
Security chief Rick Rescorla carried out training drills with staff at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter to prepare them for a terror atrocity after realising the vulnerability of buildings to air terror attacks.
But after leading thousands to safety on 9/11 when his fears were realised, the 62-year-old Cornishman was last seen going back up the stairs of the South Tower before it collapsed.
Mr Rescorla survived the 1993 car bomb attack on the World Trade Center, but later became one of very few people who realised how vulnerable the skyscraper could be to a terror atrocity.
He became so convinced that the banking firm, at his insistence, started running drills every three months on how to get thousands of staff from the company’s offices – which covered 40 floors of the South Tower and a site nearby – out as quickly as possible.
Mr Rescorla’s cousin, Jon Daniels, a former pub landlord who still lives in Hayle, Cornwall, where Mr Rescorla was born and grew up, remembers all too well the events of that day, which he said are brought home again with every anniversary.
‘You learn to live with it, what happened. But obviously, being such a major event it probably will be, if it isn’t already, one of the most televised and reported events that has happened in modern times,’ Mr Daniels said.
‘Your stomach still churns when you see the towers go down. It is alive in the memory but it is brought back when you see it replayed.’
The UK suffered more losses in the September 11 2001 attacks on America than any other country apart from the US itself.
Families of the 67 Britons killed in the 9/11 atrocities will next week remember the moment a decade ago when their lives were torn apart.
They were among the 2,977 people killed when terrorists hijacked four passenger jets and flew them into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in Washington DC.
Members of about 30 of the bereaved families will attend a remembrance ceremony at the September 11 memorial garden next to the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London.
Another 10 or so will travel to New York for the events organised by the US authorities at Ground Zero, the former site of the World Trade Centre.
Born Cyril Richard Rescorla in Cornwall with a spirit for adventure, he was a larger-than-life ‘action hero’ who wanted to join the military from an early age. He served with the British Army, changing his name to Rick from Cyril, which he hated, on joining the Parachute Regiment.
He later served with military intelligence in Cyprus. Jobs with the Metropolitan Police and North Rhodesia Police, in what is now Zambia, followed before he emigrated to the U.S. and joined the United States Army.
As Second Lieutenant Rescorla of the 7th Cavalry, he saw action in the battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam in 1965, earning the nickname ‘Hard Core’ because of his bravery.
He was awarded medals including the Silver Star and a picture of him in action forms the cover of We Were Soldiers Once…And Young, a book which was later turned into the 2002 Mel Gibson film We Were Soldiers.
On returning to civilian life he went to university and had a number of jobs before joining Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, living with second wife Susan in New Jersey but often coming back to his native Cornwall to visit friends and family.
But after warning bosses about the possibly of a terror attack, fate was against him. On September 11 he should not even have been at work but on his way to his stepdaughter’s wedding.
Mr Daniels recalls his wife hearing about the attack on the radio and telephoning him.
He said: ‘I turned on the television and saw the North Tower ablaze and smoke billowing from it and just watched events unfold from there.
‘I saw the second plane smash into the South Tower. We knew Rick was not meant to be there that day. He’d only gone in because a colleague couldn’t work.
‘Rick was meant to be on his way to Europe so as events turned out he was just unlucky to have been there that day really.
We phoned his wife Susan and she confirmed that he was in there. Rick had phoned her after the planes hit and spoke to her, but from then on, we all know from looking at the television pictures that there was no hope then.
‘Early on you hold out hope that he may have gotten out somehow or been trapped but still alive in the building. But it was obviously not meant to be.’
A picture, taken after the attack started, shows Mr Rescorla, megaphone in hand, guiding staff down stairs to safety.
Workers recalled him singing patriotic songs, including a Cornish adaptation of Men of Harlech as he led them down. So well-drilled were the staff that just three, including Mr Rescorla, died in the attack.
But he was still in the tower when it collapsed. His remains have never been found.
‘I’m very proud of Rick. That was just the way he was, prepared for any eventuality and looking after other people,’ Mr Daniels said. ‘He would always be the last person out and make sure everyone else got out safely.’
Several memorials were erected in his honour. A statue of him, based on the cover of We Were Soldiers Once…And Young, is now on permanent display on The Walk Of Heroes at the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia, the town where he trained.
And in Hayle a memorial was erected, hailing his heroics on September 11.
‘It is good to have something in his home town that can let people know of what he did on September 11 and be very proud of him,’ Mr Daniels added.
On March 25, 2009, he was posthumously awarded the Above & Beyond Citizen Medal – the most prestigious civilian award in the United States.
The main event in the UK to commemorate the landmark anniversary will be the ceremony at London’s September 11 memorial garden, which was opened by the Princess Royal in 2003.
In what has become a poignant tradition, relatives will read out the names of the British victims of the attacks and lay a white rose for each one on a memorial stone beneath bronze plaques listing them all.
Memorial services will also be held at St Paul’s Cathedral in the morning and at Westminster Abbey in the evening.
In New York there will be a concert at the British Memorial Garden site in Hanover Square, which is just half a mile from Ground Zero and also commemorates the 67 UK victims.
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