Tom Rinaldi’s New York Times Bestseller biography The Red Bandanna: A Life, A Choice, A Legacy, released this fall, asks readers “What would you do in the last hour of your life?”
Welles Crowther '99 graduated Boston College with a degree in economics and as a four year member of the varsity lacrosse team. Crowther exemplified the type of “whole person” BC's Jesuit education strives so wholeheartedly to achieve.
Following graduation, Crowther accepted a position in New York City at a successful investment banking firm. However, on September 11, 2001, Crowther “was no longer an equities trader. He became a firefighter.” What happened that day is now a familiar story to the BC community and beyond.
Accounts detailing the horrifying events of 9/11 told of a man “in a red bandanna” who went above the perimeter covered by official responders and saved at least a dozen precious lives. It was after these stories emerged that Welles’ mother, Alison, knew that this mystery hero must be her son, who kept a red bandanna on him at all times.
After this identification was confirmed by the survivors, Welles Crowther became known as “The Man in the Red Bandanna,” and since that fateful day, he has continued to serve as an inspiring example for others.
The memory of Welles and his valiant actions are maintained through The Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust, established by the Crowther family in 2001. This non-profit organization is dedicated to both recognizing and rewarding “academic and athletic excellence in young men and women who serve their communities through education, health, recreation, and character development.”
Boston College also honors Welles Crowther at the presentation of the American Heroes Channel Red Bandanna Award at a BC football game. This year the presentation will be on October 7 at BC’s Friday night football game against Clemson.
Additionally, on Saturday October 15, the annual Red Bandanna 5K Run will take place on main campus. A massively successful fundraiser for the Crowther Trust, the 5K attracts hundreds of students and community members each year. Students and residents alike will be wowed by the amazing presence and support of the BC community at this event, as a sea of red bandannas floods the BC campus in support of this wonderful cause.
As Isabel Tanzi, LSOE '18, says, “It’s an amazing morning because it is a moment for so many of us to remember and reflect together, while also having a certain amount of joy celebrating the life Welles lived.”
One of the great features of the Red Bandanna Run and the Award presentation at the football game is the great interaction between the BC Athletic Department and the Crowther Trust. At last year’s Red Bandanna game, red bandannas were passed out to students and fans in honor of Crowther, who would sport his characteristic red bandanna underneath his lacrosse helmet during every match.
As mentioned, the American Heroes Channel Red Bandanna Award will be given out at the Red Bandanna game. Last year’s recipient, Jake LaFerriere, was a firefighter from Minneapolis who founded the non-profit organization “Firefighters for Healing,” which strives to support wounded firefighters and their families when insurance companies and other agencies are unable to. This award encompasses Welles' goal of helping others.
The spirit of Welles Crowther and the support of the BC community in rallying around his memory have been particularly impactful on those in BC’s athletic community. BC Athletic Director Brad Bates especially loves to see the symbolic red bandanna at BC’s annual Red Bandanna game. “Welles Crowther is an inspiration to all of us fortunate [enough] to know his story. You cannot see a red bandanna without being motivated by the values that Welles taught us. Our obligation to his legacy is to perpetually live for others,” says Bates.
It’s not just the faculty and administration who are anticipating the October 7 game vs. Clemson, however. The football team rallies around the idea of dedicating a game to such an excellent example of Jesuit teachings in action.
As junior defensive back Gabe McClary, MCAS '18, best put it, “It is great to recognize the successful BC alumni on Wall Street or in professional sports; these people too are role models in their own right. But the ultimate sacrifice of saving other people’s lives at the sake of your own is unparalleled in my opinion.”
McClary knows the power of sport, specifically the power of football, in the BC community. And what better way to honor a true American hero than with a dedication at what is often considered the true American game? McClary believes that “football is an appropriate platform to honor Crowther. Football is a great American pastime. It draws people together and I think it’s great to dedicate an entire game to a Boston College hero.”
It will no doubt be an extremely moving event to see a sea of red bandannas this weekend, both in remembrance of an American hero, and in celebration of a true man for others.