This past month marked the 15th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. 22 Boston College alumni were killed in the attacks on that day, including 24-year-old Welles Crowther. Boston College honors those who were lost through the memorial labyrinth, located behind Bapst Library; however, the university also pays special tribute annually to the legacy Crowther, known to many as “the Man in the Red Bandana.” Recently, ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi published a book highlighting Welles’s story, The Red Bandanna: A Life. A Choice. A Legacy.
Welles Crowther grew up in Nyack, a small suburb north of New York City. As a kid, Welles dreamt of becoming a firefighter; it was his trademark to carry a red bandana at all times. After arriving on the Heights, Welles became a member of the men’s lacrosse team and studied economics. After graduation, he went on to work in finance at Sandler O’Neill and Partners, whose office was located on the upper floors of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
15 years later, Welles is not best remembered for his academic, athletic, or professional achievements, although there are many. Welles’ legacy is his actions in the immediate wake of the attacks that September morning. In the days following September 11, a survivor of the South Tower reported to the New York Times that she was saved by a “man in a red bandana.” Many phone calls and news reports later, it was discovered that Welles sacrificed himself in order to save dozens people in the South Tower.
Recently, ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi published a book highlighting Welles’s story, The Red Bandanna: A Life. A Choice. A Legacy. To his readers, Rinaldi poses the question, “What would you do in the last hour of your life?” The book examines the makings of heroism, courage, and sacrifice. Rinaldi writes that the story is, “about a fearless choice, about a crucible of terror and the indomitable spirit to answer it. Examining one decision in the gravest situation, it celebrates the difference one life can make.”
The Boston College’s Volunteer Service Learning Center has taken a special interest in honoring Welles’ legacy and the Crowther family. On October 15, 2016, Boston College will once again host the annual Welles Remy Crowther Red Bandanna 5K. The race originated in 2003, when Dan Ponsetto was hired to lead the VSLC under the position, “Welles R. Crowther Director for Volunteer & Service Learning.” Ponsetto was soon able to meet the Crowther family; after a conversation with Alison Crowther, Welles’s mother, the two decided to host the first Red Bandanna 5K. Over a decade later, the race has grown exponentially; the field is expected to be 2,000 runners this year.
All the proceeds of the Red Bandanna 5K will go towards the Crowther Charitable Trust, which “recognizes and awards academic and athletic excellence in young men and women who serve their communities through education, health, recreation and character development.” Those interested in registering for the race can visit at bc.edu/offices/service/welles5k.html. Signed copies of Rinaldi’s book can be purchased at the Boston College Bookstore.