Here in Arizona, we’re winding down the last hour of the 235th birthday of our country. It rained in the Valley of the Sun, so fireworks were cancelled. We had our own natural version: constant cloud-to-ground lightning, which I’ve never been a fan of. Where I grew up that was usually a sign of a coming tornado.
I talked to a man today who is celebrating his first year of American citizenship. He still speaks with an accent, but you can see the joy on his face and hear it in his voice…he is proud as all hell to finally be an American. He went through all the legal channels. He applied for a visa, got a job, changed his visa with sponsorship, went to school, and went through the long process of becoming a naturalized citizen. He knew things that I was surprised at, facts about this country that most people don’t know (I just happen to know them because I’m a total nerd, apparently). This man was positively beaming for the Fourth of July. He knew that our Declaration of Independence was actually ratified on July 2, and it took two days for the news to filter out to the rest of the colonies. He knew that the US Flag that we know was flown then was not all that important at the time, and different regiments fought under different flags depending on where they were from. He even knew that our Founding Fathers still considered themselves good Englishmen, and that their ideas were not novel for the time (having been, in fact, based on English Common Law).
He had no judgment for where America is today. He was simply happy to be here. He wasn’t independently wealthy, he was a working-class man who wanted a better life for himself and was willing to work for it.
Rick Rescorla was born in England in 1939 and, during the Allied push against the Nazis, he idolized the American soldiers based in his hometown of Hayle. After serving in the British army as a paratrooper, Rescorla came to America and enlisted in the US Army. He fought with the 7th Infantry at the Battle of Ia Drang and earned the nickname “Hardcore” from other members of the platoon. He, too, worked to earn his citizenship and eventually found his way to a position as the director of security at Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center. In 1992, he warned the Port Authority that terrorists would have a perfect target in the WTC – specifically, he said that any terrorist worth a damn would put a truck bomb between the pillars in the parking sublevels. A year later, after the PA ignored his advice, Muslim extremists did exactly that. Rick led the evacuation of both towers and refused to leave until every other soul was out.
Eight years later, Rescorla was supposed to be on vacation but remained on to attend a meeting about Morgan Stanley’s lawsuit against the PA for the security lapses leading up to the 1993 bombing. He was preparing for that meeting when Tower 1 was struck. While the PA advised everyone to remain inside the buildings, Rescorla moved forward with the evacuation of all of Morgan Stanley’s employees from Tower 2. With a bullhorn in his hand, he called on everyone to “be good Americans!” and “be proud to be an American!” He even sang patriotic songs to lighten the tension. He managed to evacuate nearly all of Morgan Stanley’s employees and even a few other floors before the second plane ever hit, saving nearly four thousand lives in the process. He was last seen hiking the stairs somewhere around the tenth floor as the tower began to collapse. He had refused to leave until he’d found everyone. His remains were never found.
I think he’d be saddened if he could see that we’ve learned next to nothing from that day. However, like him, it doesn’t matter what happens – I may be unhappy with where my country is right now, and I may fear the direction she’s headed in, but I’m still damn proud to be an American. Nobody will ever be able to take that away from me.
It was Americans who invented the light bulb, the telephone and a host of other things that we take for granted today. America has led the way in medical research, having at one point eradicated diseases such as polio and leprosy within its borders (thanks to unchecked illegal immigration, that has gone by the wayside). Americans invented the automobile. While the French erupted into the emotional meltdown/temper tantrum that they called a “revolution”, Americans were showing how much one nation can accomplish in a short period with reason, education, and an even temperament.
We haven’t always been perfect but we are America. It will forever bring a tear to my eye to see that pride light up the eyes of those who love this country. God bless America.