Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bandanna Man

When my niece, Bo, and nephew, Kelly, who are the first two-thirds of the Kelly/Linda branch of the family tree were both small children they used to watch a cartoon on Nickelodeon, Danger Mouse.  Occasionally "DM" used to be coupled with an animated short entitled Banana Man.  More than a quarter-century later, I still recall the narrator's declaration at the beginning of every episode:  Eric is Banana Man!  

Only within the jurisdictional limits of his animated world was young Eric actually a super hero.  In the concrete and mortar world, there was no Banana Man. 

Fortunately, in the real world there was a young man named Welles Remy Crowther.  Young Mr. Crowther was slightly more than two years removed from having graduated from Boston College with a B.A. in Economics and four letters as a member of the Eagles' lacrosse team when he reported for work on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 at Sandler, O'Neill and Partners, LP.  Sandler O'Neill was located in the South Tower of the World Trade Center - on the 104th floor.  An incredible athlete and a bright young man, Mr. Crowther had a big future.  He also had a well-developed sense of community and selflessness.  Born and raised in Nyack, N.Y., he became a junior member of Empire Hook & Ladder, Company No. 1 in Upper Nyack, New York at age sixteen and a full-fledged member of the Company at age eighteen.  

Welles Remy Crowther, slightly less than four months past his twenty-fourth birthday, died on September 11, 2001.  He was one of sixty-six victims from Sandler O'Neill.  It took a little more than six months after that awful day for his body to be recovered from the rubble that had once been the South Tower.  And it took approximately two months thereafter for his family, who grieved him then and grieves him still, to come to learn that Welles Crowther lived the final minutes of his life with same generous spirit and the same drive and determination as he had lived every other one of them. 

On May 26, 2002 the New York Times ran a story in which survivors from the South Tower credited their survival to a young mystery man.  He was "the man in the red bandanna" who appeared out of nowhere in the Sky Lobby on the 78th floor of the South Tower at or about the time that the South Tower was struck by the second plane.  According to eyewitnesses, nothing identified him as a "Wolf of Wall Street".  He was not wearing a jacket and tie.  Rather, he had on a t-shirt and he had a red bandanna over his mouth and nose, which permitted him to function amid the smoke and the swirling debris.  

People who bore witness to what transpired on that terrible morning described what he did:  

This man organized a rescue effort on the floors high above where the official rescue workers were able to reach. 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.  Eyewitnesses report that the man spoke calmly, with authority, and was obviously well trained. He is reported to have saved many lives that day.

Not everyone has a "thing", a habit or trait with which he is readily identified.  Welles Crowther did. When his mother read and/or learned of the New York Times piece, she thought immediately of her son, giving consideration to where his body had been found, which was alongside FDNY firefighters and paramedics near a Command Center on the ground floor of the South Tower, and the fact that he always carried a red bandanna in his back pocket.  He had done so since he was six years old. Photographs of Welles Crowther were shown to those who had benefited from his help on the final morning of his life and they confirmed what Mrs. Crowther knew:  Welles was Red Bandanna Man

His family, in 2001, established the Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust, the mission of which is "to honor and keep their beloved son's memory alive through good works benefiting young people."  In the thirteen-plus years since his death, the Trust has funded a wide array of gifts and annual awards.   It has repeatedly and continuously achieved its mission.  

On Saturday, September 13, 2014, the #9 USC Trojans traveled from West Coast to East Coast to play Welles Crowther's Alma mater, Boston College, in a college football game in which the Trojans, having defeated the Stanford Cardinal one week earlier, were established as the clear favorite.  In honor of Welles Crowther, the Eagles took the field wearing special-edition Red Bandanna uniforms

I know not whether the clothes do in fact make the man but one week ago Saturday they sure as hell did not hurt.  Boston College defeated USC 37-31.   In their locker room after the game, Head Coach Steve Addazio presented a game ball to Alison and Jefferson Crowther, the heartbroken yet proud parents of the heroic Red Bandanna Man.  

One hell of a young man... 

...but I suspect you did not need me to tell you that. 


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