Today is September 10, 2008. Seven years ago, it was the day before. We were all going about our business, enjoying a beautiful fall, and making plans for the future. I wonder, if we could have seen into the future, is there anything we would have done differently that day.
There was one man who was living in a different world than the rest of us–even on September 10. His name was Rick Rescorla. He was the vice president for security at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, a brokerage house with 2,700 employees in the World Trade Center in the south tower on floors forty-four through seventy-four and 1,000 employees in Building Five across the plaza. Because of the foresight of this man, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter lost only six employees in the bombing of the World Trade Center. His story is told on his website,
Rick felt strongly that the terrorists who had attempted the first World Trade Center bombing would try again. He asked his company executives to move from the towers, but the company’s lease went until 2006. Rick held evacuation drills on a regular basis in spite of the grumbling of his fellow employees. Every few months all 2,700 employees would march down the stairs and out of the building in an evacuation drill. On September 11, 2001, by the time the second airplane hit the second tower, most of the company’s employees were already out of the building. There were three employees missing, and Rick and two other people went back into the building to find them. All six were killed when the building collapsed.¹
I tell this story today for two reasons. First, Rick Rescorla is a hero whose foresight saved many lives. Second, Rick Rescorla understood that there were terrorists who wanted to destroy America even before there was a “war on terror”. We need to think back to September 10, 2001, and remember what our innocence was like and the price we paid for it. Thank God for a man who chose not to be innocent.
1. Most of the information in the above two paragraphs is from the book BREAKDOWN by Bill Gertz (subtitled “How America’s Intelligence Failures Led to September 11”).