'Heart Of A Soldier': An Opera Worth Seeing

David Gockley, general director of the San Francisco Opera, has commissioned an opera, “Heart of a Soldier,” on the life of the hero Rick Rescorla, the man who predicted the NY World Trade Center 9/11 attack.

The director is Francesca Zambello ; the composer is Christopher Theofanidis; Rick Rescorla role is played by Thomas Hampson; and the libretto is prepared by Donna DiNovelli. The Rescorla 9/11 story has been told by James B. Stewart in “Heart of a Soldier.” Larry Gwin in “Baptism” has told the Rescorla story of the Vietnam November, 1965, Ia Drang battle.

Rick Rescorla, with bullhorn

Rudyard Kipling once wrote that a hero is a soldier doing his job. The Rescorla story is extraordinary.

Rick Rescorla was born in Cornwall, England, and got to respect the US soldiers during WW11 in England. When he was old enough in 1957 he enlisted in the British Army and served in the Cyprus and Rhodesia conflicts. He then came to America and joined the US Army in 1963. He attended the Ft Benning, GA, Infantry Officers Candidate School and airborne training. He was promoted to an Army 2nd Lt officer. He was shipped to Vietnam as an Infantry officer as a platoon leader in B company 2 Battalion 7th Cavalry Regiment (General Custer’s old unit) Ist Air Cavalry Division. In November, 1965, his unit walked into a North Vietnamese army trap in the Ia Drang Valley. The unit suffered heavy losses. Lt Rescorla was one of the few officers with combat experience and he was a leader who saved many lives.

When he retired from the Army as a Colonel he attended the University of Oklahoma for undergraduate and graduate degrees in English. He then attended Oklahoma City Law School.

A scene from the opera

In 1985 he went to New York City and became security director for Dean Witter Reynolds. In 1992 he did a study of the World Trade Center (WTC) Buildings and realized the garage had inadequate security and a truck bomb could destroy the load bearing beams and collapse the buildings . On February 23, 1993, a truck bomber did exactly what Rick Rescorla predicted. There was considerable damage, thank goodness the WTC building did not collapse. He was instrumental in safely evacuating the Dean Witter employees. He was the last person out of the building.

In 1997 Dean Witter merged with Morgan Stanley and Rick Rescorla became director of Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center #2.

Rescorla asked an Army friend Dan Hill, who had volunteered to fight the Soviets in the Afghan war, to do a comprehensive study of the WTC Buildings. Their joint security report predicted terrorists would fly airplanes into both WTC buildings. He sent the report to Morgan Stanley, the NY Port Authority, and FBI. etc. Morgan Stanley did allow him to develop a detail Evacuation Plan for the employees on the 44 through 74th floors. He had special lights installed in the stairs with specific evacuation instructions. Most important every three months he was allowed to have actual Mock Evacuation exercises.

On Sept 11, 2001, just as he had predicted America Airlines #11 crashed into the WTC tower #1 (WTC). Rick Rescorla immediately ordered Evacuation of Morgan Stanley employees from floors 44 to 74 in the WTC tower #2. But the Port Authority ordered all employees in WTC #2 to return to their offices. Rick Rescorla countermanded the Port Authority order and evacuated over 2,700 Morgan Stanley employees to safety. Rick Rescorla went back upstairs to evacuate a few stragglers. WTC #2 was hit by United #175 and he was killed. His remains have never been found. Rick Rescorla is the man who predicted the 9/11 attack and he did everything possible to save his employees.

How do we explain the 9/11 intelligence failure?

In the Intelligence Cycle there are those who collect intelligence; those who evaluate intelligence; and those who act on evaluated intelligence. To predict the future you must have positive, negative, and probable scenarios. The purpose of our education system is to produce individuals with ration prudent minds. Unless you have been in the military, it is hard to understand that there are individuals and groups who do not think like rational prudent people. There are groups which have the objective to destroy our way of life. It is very difficult for Americans to accept the negative scenarios. Rick Rescorla was a retired US Army Colonel, the veteran of three wars, highly educated, with no illusions. Individuals like Rescorla save lives.

The opera “Heart of a Soldier” is a great celebration of Rick Rescorla’s life. As a former Infantry officer, I salute him and all the soldiers like him.

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