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DHS names citizen resilience award in memory of Rick Rescorla

Rick Rescorla

The Department of Homeland Security unveiled a new award program named for the security chief at Morgan Stanley and Dean Witter who made sure hundreds of his co-workers made it to safety during the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The agency said its new Rick Rescorla National Award for Resilience is its first award for leadership and innovation for non-governmental individuals or organizations that exemplify Rescorla’s qualities and achievements and emphasizes leadership in effective preparation, response, and recovery in the face of disasters.

The award, said DHS, was created to acknowledge his memory and his selfless, highly-effective evacuation of Morgan Stanley’s 2,700-person workforce from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, an action that saved the lives of many of his coworkers.

An individual or organization may be nominated for the Rick Rescorla National Award for Resilience beginning April 1, 2012 through May 15, 2012, said DHS. The award will be presented annually, starting September 2012. Last year, Napolitano honored Rescorla posthumously with the DHS Distinguished Public Service Medal, the Department’s highest honor, and announced the creation of the Rick Rescorla National Award for Resilience.

Rescorla’s actions on Sept. 11 have become legend. He ignored building officials’ advice to stay put after the first airplane struck the first tower and began evacuating thousands of company employees in two buildings in the World Trade Center complex. He succeeded in evacuating most of the employees from WTC Tower Two before the second airplane struck. He was last seen headed up a stairwell in Tower Two with some of his associates to help others as the tower collapsed. His remains were never recovered.

Rescorla had perhaps anticipated the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center after he experienced a previous terror attack against the buildings in 1993. After that assault, he drilled Morgan Stanley employees in disaster preparedness and response. DHS said Rescorla’s actions and commitment to preparedness ensured that the Morgan Stanley employees knew how to evacuate and where to go on 9/11.

Born in England in 1939, Rescorla had served with distinction in the British Army, but emigrated to the U.S. He joined the U.S. Army in 1963, serving as a Second Lieutenant in the Vietnam War. Returning from the war, now a U.S. citizen, he earned college and law degrees, married and raised a family. He retired from the Army reserve in 1990, but had begun his corporate security work at Morgan Stanley in 1985.

“Rick Rescorla’s heroism during the 9/11 attacks and commitment to the preparedness of the thousands of employees under his watch serves as an inspiration and model to all of us,” said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. “The Rick Rescorla National Award for Resilience recognizes outstanding response to a catastrophic incident and leadership in fostering resilient and prepared communities.”

For more information on eligibility and criteria for the Rick Rescorla National Award for Resilience and how to nominate an individual or organization, visit www.dhs.gov/rrraward.