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Family recall the day hero Rick died in Twin Towers

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 06, 2011

  • Rick Rescorla

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The cousin of a Westcountry-born hero of 9/11, who died in the Twin Towers, has spoken of his continuing sadness and pride at what his relative did that day.

Rick Rescorla, who was head of security for banking firm Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, is credited with saving 2,700 people ten years ago by making sure they left the World Trade Centre's South Tower before it collapsed.

The 62-year-old Cornishman, who became a US citizen in the 1960s and was decorated during service in the Vietnam War, foresaw the terrorist attacks, with his warnings featuring in a Channel 4 documentary in 2005, entitled The Man Who Predicted 9/11. He made staff at the bank regularly practice escape drills which later saved their lives.

He was last seen going back up the stairs of the tower looking for stragglers. His body has never been found.

His 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 US 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. He survived the 1993 car bomb attack on the World Trade Centre and in its aftermath was one of the few people who realised the buildings' vulnerability to terror attacks from the air.

He was so persuasive that the company, 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.

But 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.

"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."

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