Michael J. Weiss’ new film Man in Red Bandana begins with President Barack Obama honoring Welles Crowther’s courageous final hours. It then quickly cuts to footage of two planes flying into the twin towers on September 11, 2001. Much of the beginning of the film is dedicated to the logistics of the attacks, with Gwyneth Paltrow, the film's narrator, detailing exactly where each plane hit and what this meant for the people in each tower.
In the North Tower, Paltrow reveals that no one at or above the impact zone survived. However, in the South Tower, 18 people who had been above the impact zone survived the attack. There were two key differences in the South Tower that allowed for these victims to escape: an architectural irregularity that spared one of the three main staircases and Welles Crowther.
The film eventually delves into looking at Welles’ early life, from his childhood growing up in Nyack, New York to his time spent playing lacrosse at Boston College. Welles expressed interest in firefighters from a young age, eagerly signing up as a volunteer firefighter as soon as he was old enough. Through this program, he learned the lifesaving skills that would come to define his legacy.
Notably, many of Welles’ defining characteristics were not ones that could be learned; they were inherent to who he was. According to his sister Honor, Welles was always prouder of others than he was of himself. This humility and selflessness lives on in Welles’ legacy.
Months after September 11, 2001, the first responders and volunteers searching for victims among the rubble located Welles’ body in what used to be the lobby of the South Tower. He was found mere feet from the door, alongside other first responders. It is believed he intended to go back up to save more people when the tower finally collapsed.
At Boston College, the Jesuit motto “men and women for others” defines the ideal for which much of the student body strives. Welles Crowther was truly a man for others, but it would not be fair to say that this is because he attended BC. Welles was a man for others long before he was an Eagle, as evidenced by his time as a volunteer firefighter and the altruism he exhibited in all of his relationships. Boston College is special not because it molds its students into men and women for others, but because it attracts students who already are. The academic and social environment at BC helps students to grow in their intrinsic commitment to serving others. This desire endures through some of BC’s most popular organizations, such as 4Boston, Appalachia Volunteers, PULSE, Arrupe, and countless others.
The best way BC students can honor Welles is by continuing to live and serve others, just as he did. This is why every October, hundreds of students and community members participate in the Red Bandana Run in support of the Welles Remy Crowther Trust, a scholarship program intended to promote the pursuit of excellence in young people. So, come this Saturday, October 14, we run—for Welles, for his mission of service, and for his unforgettable legacy.