When many of us think of September 11 – images of falling buildings, erupting planes and countless grief-stricken faces come to mind. And of course it’s understandable that we should recount this tragic day by thinking of the fallen, the heartbreak and the devastation. Yet – the stories of heroism and sacrifice that have surfaced since that fateful day are some of the most moving and inspirational imaginable.
Take Richard “Rick” Rescorla. A 62-year-old retired and decorated U.S. Army colonel, Rick was Morgan Stanley’s director of security where he insisted on holding twice-yearly evacuation drills. Thanks to his planning and preparation, and despite being told to stay put after the 8:46 a.m. crash next door, Rick calmly encouraged Morgan Stanley staffers down the 22 floors in the south tower. Although 13 employees – including Rescorla – perished, more than 2,500 employees left the tower alive. It’s been reported that, during the mayhem, he called his wife, telling her, “If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier.” His story was ultimately made into an opera called, fittingly, Heart of a Soldier.
‘Heart of a Soldier’ Opera Chronicles Heroism, Love Amid Tragedy of 9/11
Michael Benfante is another hero who wrote a book titled Reluctant Hero about his experience. He and a co-worker carried a woman in a wheelchair down 68 floors of the north tower of the World Trade Center to safety. The media immediately called him as a hero, and rightfully so. Yet, as Michael points out in his book, there were many heroes that day.
There are so many other, lesser known individuals whose acts of bravery aren’t written on pages or sung about on stage. Such as subway operator Joe Irizarry who ordered that the doors of his train open as long as possible – providing refuge and escape to those trying to escape the dust and debris blanketing lower Manhattan. Or Army Lt. Col. Marilyn Wills, who helped others escape from the fire-inflamed Pentagon, receiving the Purple Heart for her injuries.
There are even non-human heroes whose courage should not be forgotten. Computer sales manager Michael Hingson was at his desk on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower on the morning of 9/11 when the plane hit. Thankfully, his guide dog Roselle was by his side. The yellow lab calmly guided her blind charge 1,463 steps out of the building and led him safely to a nearby subway.
Hero Dog Roselle – American Humane Association
We hope that a tragedy like the one that befell us on September 11, 2001 never happens again. While nothing can erase the desolation of that day, stories like these hopefully provide some comfort. These accounts demonstrate the very best of us … they not only provide inspiration – they offer a great deal of hope.