At 8:46 a.m. on the morning of September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 struck World Trade Center Tower 1. Rescorla heard the explosion and saw the Tower burning from his office window. When a Port Authority announcement came over the P.A. system urging people to stay at their desks, Rescorla ignored the announcement, grabbed his bullhorn, walk-talkie and cell phone, and began systematically ordering Morgan Stanley employees evacuate, including the 1,000 employees in WTC 5. He directed people down a stairwell from the 44th floor, continuing to calm employees after the building lurched violently following the crash of the second plane 38 floors above. Morgan Stanley executive Bill McMahon stated that even a group of 250 people visiting the offices for a stockbroker training class knew what to do because they had been shown the nearest hallway. Having calmed his men in Vietnam by singing Cornish songs from his youth, Rescorla did the same in the stairwell, singing, “Men of Cornwall stand ye steady. It cannot be ever said ye for the battle were not ready. Stand and never yield!” Between songs, Rescorla called his wife, telling her, “Stop crying. I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.” After successfully evacuating the majority of Morgan Stanley’s 2,687 employees, he went back inside the building. When one of his colleagues told him he too had to evacuate the World Trade Center, Rescorla replied, “As soon as I make sure everyone else is out”. He was last seen on the 10th floor, heading upward, shortly before the tower collapsed. His remains were never found.
After seeing conspiracy theories and debates on the merit of 9/11 humor all morning, I got to discover this and remember there are things worth remembering about 9/11 that don’t make me feel horrible.