Remembering some of 9/11′s great leaders

September 11, 2013

Gary Hershorn / Reuters

The leaders and heroes of that terrible day, that day that feels a world away and yet too much like yesterday, are far too numerous to count.

There are the famous faces whose leadership on Sept. 11 and in the days that followed we'll never forget. There are the firefighters and police, the rescue workers and the volunteers. And, even 12 years later, there are the unknown names and the little-known heroes who are only now getting their due.

Every person who died, every person who helped is in their own way a hero. Many of them were leaders as well, inspiring others to run back into a building, turning their boats back toward Manhattan, or volunteering to help in whatever way they could. It's impossible to recount them all, but here are a few that stick with me--some for the attention they got, but others for the role that they played. Help us remember more in the comments.

Rick Rescorla: The subject of a book and an opera, Rescorla was a vice president for corporate security for Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center who is credited with saving 2,700 lives on Sept. 11 as he led the company's employees down the stairs of the tower, singing. He has been called "the man who predicted 9/11," developing an evacuation plan that he implemented that day despite instructions otherwise. He died while helping others out of the South Tower.

Todd Beamer: Who can forget the "Let's Roll" acclamation of Beamer, the 32-year-old Oracle manager who helped others on the plane stop the hijackers of Flight 93 from reaching their intended target? What became a rallying cry in the aftermath of that horrific day was first uttered in an unimaginably terrifying situation.

Roger FergusonWith Alan Greenspan out of the country on Sept. 11, Ferguson, the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, was left in charge of preventing a financial collapse. He recalled to ABC News that Greenspan effectively told him to "exercise leadership, make the decisions you think are right." And he did, issuing a clear statement and organizing Fed banks to work together to avoid an economic meltdown.

Frank De Martini and Pablo Ortiz: The "Heroes of the 88th Floor," as they've been memorialized, these employees of the Port Authority, an architect and a construction inspector, respectively, "pushed back the boundary line between life and death in favor of the living," wrote Jim Dwyer in the New York Times, helping to rescue at least 50 people.

Jena McGregor is a columnist for On Leadership.

Read also:

Obama honors 9/11 victims

How to teach Sept. 11 to young people

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.
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Jena McGregor · September 11, 2013