The Story of the Man in the Red Bandanna

Welles Remy Crowther is a familiar name at Boston College. Many know bits and pieces of his story from watching the famous ESPN video or running the annual 5k in his honor, but it remains nearly impossible to really capture the man who Welles was in words.

Born on May 17, 1977 in New York City, Welles Crowther lived in Pomona, NY and moved to Upper Nyack at age seven. He attended Upper Nyack Elementary School, and in 1995 graduated from Nyack High School. There, he spent four years as a high honor roll student, varsity ice hockey player (senior year co-captain), varsity lacrosse player, and two years as a varsity soccer player. In every sport he played, Welles wore the number 19.

It was at six years old that Welles started carrying a red bandanna everywhere. The story is that his father gave him a neatly folded, white handkerchief “for show” and a red bandanna “for blow.” The bandanna quickly became a signature item for Welles, and he continued to wear it under his helmet through every BC lacrosse game.

Image via bc.edu

Image via Boston College/bc.edu

Noted for his amazing self-discipline, politeness, leadership, and care from a young age, Welles grew up to be the type of man every parent hopes for their son to become. When he was 16 years old, Welles joined the Empire Hook & Ladder Co., No. 1, Upper Nyack as a junior member. He spent his high school years at the fire department and didn’t hesitate to become a full member of the company as an emergency responder and firefighter when he turned 18. His friends and teammates often mention his great sense of strength, honor, and courage, both on and off the field and fire truck.

Image via lacrosseplayground.com

Image via lacrosseplayground.com

Upon graduating high school, Welles joined the Boston College class of 1999, where he received his B.A. in Economics and was a varsity lacrosse player for four years.  In the summer of 1997, Crowther landed an internship with Sandler O’Neill & Partners investment firm and spent the next summer studying foreign markets in Spain. After graduating from BC, Welles spent a year living in Hoboken, NJ with some BC friends, and later moved to Greenwich Village in NYC. He was offered a job at Sandler O’Neill & Partners, 2 World Trade Center, 104th floor, where he became an equities trader. Even with a successful career, Welles felt that something was missing. He told his father that he was considering leaving his office job at Sandler O’Neill to become a NYC firefighter.

On September 11, 2001, Welles turned to his firefighter instincts without a second thought. After plane crash, Crowther called his mother to tell her that he was okay then flung himself into the heart of danger to help whoever he could. His body was found weeks later in the South Tower lobby among the bodies of uniformed firefighters. For months, Welles’ family knew nothing about what had occurred in Welles final moments, but on May 26, 2002, an article appeared in The New York Times. According to eyewitnesses, a man in a red bandanna “appeared out of nowhere,” and saved the lives of many. This occurred on the 78th floor of 2 World Trade Center, which is right where Welles was expected to have been when the tower collapsed.

The eyewitnesses explained that the stranger covered his nose and mouth with a red bandanna to shield himself from smoke and debris. Official rescue workers could not reach that high into the building, so the man in the red bandanna took matters into his own hands and directed many to the only useable stairwell, and he even carried a woman 17 flights down to the 61st floor to the nearest rescue officials. After leading them to an evacuation route, the man in the red bandanna made a sharp turn and sped back up to the 78th floor to continue his rescue efforts. After leading a second group down, he ascended the stairs a final time, but he didn’t make it back down himself.

As soon as she heard mention of the red bandanna in a newspaper article, Welles’ mother, Alison Crowther, knew that this unidentified hero had to be her son. She sent photos to the eyewitnesses who confirmed Welles’ identity. It was an emotional realization for everyone involved. One witness stated that in his rescue efforts, Welles captured the attention of all of the distressed individuals saying, “Everyone who can stand, stand now. If you can help others, do so.” That is exactly what Welles himself did. The South tower collapsed at 9:59 AM as his father watched from a nearby building. Welles Remy Crowther is credited with saving the lives of as many as 12 individuals and is remembered for his close relationship with his family – his parents, his two sisters, Honor and Paige, and his grandparents.

Image via Flickr/BostonCollegeFlickr

Image via Flickr/BostonCollegeFlickr

Every year, Boston College hosts the annual Welles Remy Crowther Red Bandanna 5k Run. Proceeds go to The Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust, which supports charities and scholarships to help young people reach their life goals. The run is Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 9 AM, and registration will close October 16th. Runners can join as part of a team or register as an individual ($20 students, $25 non-students). It begins in front of Gasson Hall, heads down Commonwealth Ave., turns right onto Chestnut Hill Ave., loops around the reservoir and up Beacon Street, and the final stretch is on College Road. The run is also open to volunteers, for those who would like to get involved without running. Any type of involvement in this event is a great way to honor the life of an outstanding member of the Boston College family.

Feature image via espn.com

Comments