This Is the Story of Welles Crowther, the Man in the Red Bandanna

If you haven’t heard it already, this is the story of the Man in the Red Bandana. As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, this story has been told over the years, many different ways.

It’s a story of selflessness, unmatched bravery, and heroism. It’s the story of 24-year-old Welles Crowther.

Born in NYC, Welles was beloved by those who knew him. He loved sports and excelled in most parts of his life. 

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In high school, Welles’ passion for being a firefighter began when he was 16 after he joined the Empire Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1 as a junior member. Two years later, he complete the training program and became a full member of the company.

However, while his passion was helping people, Welles Crowther opted to leave the company and attend Boston College, In college, Welles played varsity lacrosse all four years.

He went on to graduate with a degree in economics. Welles Crowther then returned to NYC where he began working as an investment banker. Welles worked in the 2 World Trade Center. 

On September 11, 2001, after the first plane flew into the first tower, Welles’ training as a firefighter took over. It was then that Welles began to do the very thing he was born to do, help people.

According to the official website created to honor him and his story, it is believed Welles was in his office around 9:00 a.m. that morning. His body was discovered five months later, on March 19, 2002, in the lobby of the south tower, alongside several other NYPD firefighters and first responders.

However, no one learned of Welles impact that day in 2001 until May 2002, when The New York Times featured a story that mentioned a man in a red bandanna on the 78th floor Sky Lobby of 2 World Trade Center.

“Eyewitnesses reported that, after the plane had hit into the Sky Lobby, a man suddenly appeared ‘out of nowhere.’ He was stripped to his T-shirt and wearing a red bandanna to cover his nose and mouth, protection against the smoke and debris,” the website reported. It was this man who “organized a rescue effort.”

“He called for fire extinguishers, he found and directed dazed and confused victims to the only stairwell that was open for escape, and he carried a woman down to the 61st floor, then returned to the 78th floor to rescue more people. He turned back up once again after bringing the second group of survivors down.”

The “man in the red bandanna” had saved countless lives that day. And when Welles’ mother heard about the “man in the red bandanna” she knew she had just learned about her son’s last moments.

You see, Welles Crowther was given a red bandanna by his father when he was just six years old. It was something he always had with him in his pocket. And his mother knew that.

When she heard about this, she sent a photo of Welles to the eyewitnesses. The witnesses, the people who Welles saved that day, confirmed it was him. 

Welles Crowther was the man in the red bandanna.

Ultimately, it was learned that Welles and other members of FDNY were on their way back to the 78th floor with the “jaws of life” to save even more people who were trapped by debris when they passed away as a result of the building collapsing.

There is so much to take away from Welles Crowther’s story. But two of the most important lessons are that there is a hero in all of us and Welles Crowther was an incredibly selfless man.

May we never forget the thousands of lives lost on September 11, 2001.

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