In my interview on American Family Radio this morning, Tim Wildmon asked me what we as Christians should do to commemorate September 11th. I shared the following story and application. I encourage you to read it carefully. Please feel free to email it to friends and family as you think the teaching would be well-received.
Rick Rescorla was Vice President for Security for Morgan Stanley, a decorated Viet Nam veteran who had served under Hal Moore, the General whose character was memorialized in the book We Were Soldiers Once…and Young and a subsequent movie. The soldier on the book cover is Rick.
As a veteran Rick handled his job with military precision. In his gut he knew Morgan Stanley’s headquarters, housed in the World Trade Center towers, were at risk. He predicted both the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks. When Morgan Stanley refused his recommendation to move out of the building, Rick instituted regular surprise fire drills and instructed people on the basics of life safety.
On September 11, 2001, when the first plane struck World Trade Center Tower 1, an announcement was made in Tower 2 for everyone to stay calm and resume their work. Rick immediately ignored the announcement and evacuated his employees, standing in the stairwell with his bullhorn singing “God Bless America” and shouting, “Today is a day to be proud to be an American!”
Having grown up in Cornwall, England, Rick belted out the battle hymn he learned growing up:
Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;
Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warriors’ pennants streaming
To this battlefield.
Men of Cornwall stand ye steady;
It cannot be ever said
For the battle were not ready;
Stand and never yield!
The last anyone saw Rick was in a Tower 2 stairwell, heading up. His body was never recovered. Because of Rick’s preparation and his bravery, all but 6 of Morgan Stanley’s 2,700 employees in the World Trade Center buildings survived the attack. Rick’s widow Susan said, “He lived by a code. He had his own philosophy and he used to say to me, ‘You declare what you’re about when you’re young and you try to stay on that road so that at the end of your life you knew you did the very best you could.”[i]
Whatever the spiritual state of Rick Rescorla, he heroically embodied redeemed neighborliness. He understood that character is not something you are born with, like brown hair or blue eyes. It is a choice, a cultivated habit. The one thing character most manifestly is not is an intellectual posture. Knowing about good character is of little use. In Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis said
Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism. I had sooner play cards against a man who was quite skeptical about ethics, but bred to believe that “a gentleman does not cheat,” than against an irreproachable moral philosopher who had been brought up among sharpers [people who use trickery to steal from others].[ii]
The phrase “without the aid of trained emotions” is telling. You can train your emotions. You are not a victim of how you feel. You can cultivate your wants to want what is worth cultivating.
So what is it we should cultivate? Among other things, hope—not fear. Psalm 78 says we must not fail to pass God’s truths on to the next generation so that they might put their hope in God and not forget the works of God and not be like their forefathers, a generation who on the brink of victory caved in to fear and ran from the battlefield.
We must declare, at as early of an age as we understand the principle, whether at 16 or 60 or 90, what kind of people we intend to be, and to stay on that road to the end of our lives. May God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, enable us to do it.
Jeff Myers, Ph.D., President