The Red Bandanna: A Life. A Choice. A Legacy. by Tom Rinaldi
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Penguin Press; First Edition edition (September 6, 2016)
What would you do in the last hour of your life?
The story of Welles Crowther, whose actions on 9/11 offer a lasting lesson on character, calling and courage
One Sunday morning before church, when Welles Crowther was a young boy, his father gave him a red handkerchief for his back pocket. Welles kept it with him that day, and just about every day to come; it became a fixture and his signature.
A standout athlete growing up in Upper Nyack, NY, Welles was also a volunteer at the local fire department, along with his father. He cherished the necessity and the camaraderie, the meaning of the role. Fresh from college, he took a Wall Street job on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, but the dream of becoming a firefighter with the FDNY remained.
When the Twin Towers fell, Welles’s parents had no idea what happened to him. In the unbearable days that followed, they came to accept that he would never come home. But the mystery of his final hours persisted. Eight months after the attacks, however, Welles’s mother read a news account from several survivors, badly hurt on the 78th floor of the South Tower, who said they and others had been led to safety by a stranger, carrying a woman on his back, down nearly twenty flights of stairs. After leading them down, the young man turned around. “I’m going back up,” was all he said.
The survivors didn’t know his name, but despite the smoke and panic, one of them remembered a single detail clearly: the man was wearing a red bandanna.
Tom Rinaldi’s The Red Bandanna 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.
I was really excited to read this book but the first half wasn’t what I was expecting. It told of Welles life, from school, his friends, his family, things he did growing up, just about every aspect of his life leading up to 911. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in his life’s story, I just thought it gave too many details.
Then it got to the morning of 911 and what happened, told by the people that were in the tower with him, and survived, because of him.
The images that the words put in your head are horrendous. I can not even imagine being in that situation. And for him to have the state of mind to do whatever he could to lead as many people as he could to safety is amazing. He could have gotten out many times over, but he stayed and directed them to safety.
I won’t go into the details of what everyone went through, but I can tell you that Welles was a true hero, over and over, that day.
This is one book that will stay with me for a very long time.