Every new year that passes since September 11, 2001 has brought the same amazement with it of the time that has passed. I still remember the horror of that day just as if I were experiencing it again. I've recounted the story previously about my recollections of that day, so I won't repeat it now. Instead, I want to take this time to throw off the shroud of fear that I still feel when I think of that day; I want to take this moment to honor one of the heroes of that day.
Every year in the days leading up to the anniversary, it's been my habit to read stories of the victims. I'm always overcome with emotion when I read the amazing things the people caught in that nightmare managed to accomplish. And every year I discover someone's story I hadn't been familiar with before. This year, I found myself enthralled by the heroic story of Welles Crowther.
I think what first captured my interest in this story was that the person involved was so close in age to me. He was 24 years old at the time of the attacks, only a year and a half older than me. Dubbed the "Man in the Red Bandana", Welles is the super hero I hope my children and grandchildren, nieces and nephew hold up as their role model. On that horrible day, when no one would have thought any less of him - and, in fact would have joyfully embraced him and praised God for the miracle - had he simply made it out alive, Welles instead worked with the New York Fire Department to help evacuate and save no less than 12 people. After the chaos died down, those who were saved reported being directed to the only staircase still available for escape by a man wearing a red bandana over his mouth and nose to block out the dust and debris. Eyewitnesses described the man and Welles' mother felt the description - including his calm demeanor and seemingly professional training (Welles was a volunteer firefighter in his hometown) - fit her son and she knew he always carried a red bandana in his pocket that had been given to him by his father. She forwarded his photo to the eyewitnesses and they confirmed the "Man in the Red Bandana" was indeed her son.
Welles Crowther did not make it out of the World Trade Center alive that day. His body was recovered on March 19, 2002. He was posthumously named an honorary New York City Firefighter. His legacy is 12 people who owe their lives to him and a story of courage beyond the likes of which have rarely been seen in this generation by a civilian outside of that day.
On a day when fear often overshadows hope, I choose instead to hear Welles Crowther's shout of freedom! Those who sought to bring America to her knees that day will never have accomplished what they hoped. Welles Crowther and the other heroes like him on September 11, 2001 made sure that in that black, black day pure light still shone through.
Source: Crowther Trust Website - Seriously, go read his story here. They tell it so much better than I ever could.