A Hero's Farewell .

Article excerpt


The Man Who Predicted 9/11 (C4); Megastructures: The World's Fastest Motorway (Five)

HEROISM can take many forms, from anarchic rule-breaking or patient acceptance of suffering and grief, to a quality much underrated and neglected in our age - a devotion to duty.

Would that the latter had been more in evidence in New Orleans.

I'm not talking of the hordes of petty jobsworths who add to the stress of our lives by ordering us around and using small print to levy heavy fines that take no account of people's ability to pay (parking fines are a huge imposition on the poor).

But there were people working in the two 110- storey towers of the World Trade Centre in downtown Manhattan before the appalling events of September 11, 2001, to whom Rick Rescorla must have seemed like a boxticking nuisance, as we learned from last night's The Man Who Predicted 9/11.

Rescorla was the head of security for the financial house Morgan Stanley, a company that occupied floors 44 to 74, the largest single amount of office space in the South Tower, the second of the buildings to be struck by airliners hijacked by Islamic terrorists.

Cornish-born Rescorla was an interesting man. An excerpt from a TV interview he gave in 1998 indicated that he was ahead of almost everyone else in his warnings that by 'playing top cop' in the world at large, America was creating a reservoir of hatred that was bound to have repercussions at home.

He expressed his anxieties about the poor security in the goods delivery area of the Twin Towers' basement before terrorists planted a lorry bomb in 1993 that killed six people, injured another 300, and panicked the thousands of office workers as smoke filled the stairwells of the South Tower.

Convinced that the terrorists would again find the World Trade Centre a tempting target, and sure the next attack would come from the air, Rescorla tried to persuade management to move the 2,700 Morgan Stanley staff elsewhere.

Unsuccessful, he zealously imposed compulsory fire drills on everybody, from top executives to humble messengers. He didn't care if meetings or important phone calls were interrupted - when the warning sounded, everybody had to troop, no doubt cursing, down the three emergency stairwells to street level.

Steve Humphries' film suggested that Rescorla's concern for the safety of his charges stemmed from his experiences as a platoon commander in the Vietnam War, and the blame he heaped on himself for the death of any of his soldiers.

RESCORLA'S emphasis on regular drills saved the lives of all but six (he being one of them) of the 2,700 Morgan Stanley staff in the South Tower.

He didn't join them as they fled the building, remaining behind to help the firemen and police inside until both buildings collapsed to create Ground Zero. …