I remember it too. I know exactly where I was when the shit hit the fan. ;-)
I want to say that thanks to Morris, we have CERT, or was it that Morris put CERT on the map.
(Spafford was at Purdue if memory serves...)
(Its been a very long time and I've destroyed too many brain cells.)
Because I was a student system admin for one of the departments at my University... I got a boat load of emails and stuff on the worm.
The biggest thing that saved Morris was that he didn't think that it would replicate as quickly as it did and he was very repentant at the time. (Or that it would spread as quickly as it did...) The bottom line I don't think Morris thought about what could happen when he wrote it and launched it.
I used to ask people who insisted on .rhosts or /etc/hosts.equiv entries where they were when Morris released his worm. If they give me a blank stare, I'd give them the 15 min lecture. Or if they remembered... they would just quietly go away.
I don't think you remembered it wrong.
The thing about Morris was that he took advantage of a couple of major flaws and the worm over replicated quickly. Also he took out what was then the 'net or internet that grew out of arpanet.
The .rhosts, /etc/hosts.equiv was one insecurity. There were a couple of other things... but lets not go there.
(Geez, I hadn't thought about it for years... kinda surprised I remembered as much as I did. ;-)