Arts & Events

Book Review: Heart of a Soldier

Reviewed by Dorothy Snodgrass
Wednesday September 28, 2011 - 10:25:00 AM

This September marked the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack, the worst attack in American history! Who can forget the horrific images of the burning Towers, people jumping out of windows, and dazed workers who managed to escape the building, soot-covered but uninjured, running through the rubble covering the ground? 

But sometimes from the ashes of tragedy comes an extraordinary, even magical story that inspires, offers hope and helps heal even the deepest wounds. James B. Stewart, New York Times reporter and author of the splendid book, "Heart of a Soldier" tells such a story -- one of love and friendship, danger and courage, redemption and heroism. 

Susan Greer, a middle-aged and divorced widow, had just about given up on love and romance when she met a stranger, who, oddly enough was jogging in his bare feet. Little did she dream that she would meet and marry the man of her dreams. 

Born in Britain on the eve of World War 11, Rick Rescorda became an American citizen and a much decorated soldier. His extraordinary life is woven into the military conflicts of his time, from the battlefields of colonial Africa to some of the deadliest battles of Vietnam. Surviving them all with great courage and style, Rescorda seemed invincible. A large, gruff bear of a man, Rick, after returning to the U.S. worked as Head of Security for the Morgan Stanley Company on the sixty first floor of the Center. 

At 8:30 a.m. that morning there was a loud explosion and a huge blast shook the building. It was then that Rescorda took control. Speaking through a bull horn, he issued these orders: "Be still," he said quietly. "Be silent. Be calm." O.k, everyone, the northeast staircase is clear. Let's move. Stay calm. Watch your partner." Speaking to Susan, who was watching at home on television, he said, "If something should happen to me, I want you to know that I have never been happier. You made my life." He then proceeded to safely evacuate 2,700 employees out of the World Trade Center's South Tower, went back and began climbing the stairs, looking for stragglers. It's no accident that of the 2,700 Morgan Stanley employees, only six died. Rescorda was one, having gone back to make sure others got out. 

At a memorial service for Rick, a eulogist stated, "Most of us know how he died, how he ignored orders to stay put and ordered a complete evacuation; how he was gasping on the stair wells, how he insisted on going back up. The last words he was quoted as saying, 'Today is a day to be proud of being an American.'" 

Grieving for her husband and their all too brief time together, Susan composed this poem: 

Six months have passed since that fateful day When evil took you away. I asked over and over why you couldn't stay. But God and the Universe had their way. A new mission you had to take in the course of this horrible wake. I honor your life and your death. To the end of time and with each breath. Together our love is forever.