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The Red Bandanna: A life, A Choice, A Legacy…

The Red Bandanna: A life, A Choice, A Legacy

by Tom Rinaldi

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The Red Bandanna
A Life. A Choice. A Legacy
Tom Rinaldi

MY RATING ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️▫️
PUBLISHER Penguin Press
PUBLISHED September 6, 2016

A powerful and thought-provoking story of what one man did in the last hour of his life.

Welles Crowther always carried a red bandanna in his back pocket, it was his signature. His father had given him a red bandanna when Welles was just a young boy and told him to always keep in handy. When he worked as a researcher on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, Welles would frequently place the red bandanna on the corner of his desk, and occasionally wave it over his head in jubilant acknowledgment of a request for research help. While Welles loved his finance job with Sandler O’Neill, his true passion and dream was of becoming a full-time firefighter with the FDNY. This is his September 11th story. It the story of a man who took charge in the smoke-filled sky elevator lobby on the 78th floor of the South Tower; a man that found the only open stairway and told others to follow him; a man that carried one woman on his back, down sixteen flights of stairs, and then went back up to help others. The survivors that he rescued didn’t know his name, but the one thing they remembered was that he wore a red bandanna around his neck.

I visited the September 11th Memorial with a group of friends late September 2017. As we were getting reading to leave, the cover of this beautiful book at a nearby kiosk caught my attention. As an avid reader I couldn’t think of a better remembrance of my visit to to the memorial. I was not familiar with Welles Crowther story, but l felt called to this particular book. Once I returned home to Florida it took a little courage to actually open and read the book, but I’m so glad I finally did. Emotionally it’s a difficult read, and I struggled with some of the writing, but as a story, like the paisley swirls in a red bandanna, it’s beautiful. TOM RINALDI has woven Welles Crowther’s character, courage and choice into a powerful and memorable tribute to a fine young man, and a beacon for us all.

At 9:12 am Welles calls his mom and leaves a message. “Mom...this is Welles. I.... I want you to know that I’m okay.” They were the last words his family would ever hear him speak.
  LisaSHarvey | Jan 12, 2018 |
What would you do if you knew this was the last hour of your life? Where would you be? Who would you hug? On 9/11/2001, two planes flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Many people had to make a decision: Wait for help or try to escape? Every second counted.

Years earlier on a Sunday morning before church, a father gave his young son two handkerchiefs: a white one for his suit pocket for show, and a red one for his back pocket for the blow. As the child grew up, he became an athlete, a volunteer firefighter, and a college graduate. He even landed a coveted job on the 104th floor of the South tower of the World Trade Center. Throughout it all, he dreamed of becoming a firefighter. And throughout it all, he kept a red bandanna in his back pocket.

When the twin towers fell, the young man was nowhere to be found. No one knew what had happened to him. His family searched for months. Just when they thought they might never find him, stories began to surface about a mysterious young man. Through the smoke, flames, injuries, and panic, survivors remembered a young man with a red bandanna. These survivors said that they only lived because of him.

No one knew his name. No one knew who he was, but this young man, identified by a simple piece of red cloth, chose to help rather than flee. He could have gotten out and saved himself, but instead he guided these strangers to safety. Not once, but twice.

This is the story about how a red bandanna became a symbol of courage. This is the story of one young man who ran towards danger. He was simply doing what he felt was right. On that fateful day his dream of becoming a firefighter came true. He never made it out, but he lives on in the people he saved.

In the last hour of his life, twenty-four year old Welles Crowther made the fearless decision to help others. What would you do?

The Bottom Line: This was the best book I read last year. I highly recommend it to everyone. It would be a great pick for high schools and colleges. Also, book clubs will want to consider this inspirational biography.

This review also appears at the Mini Book Bytes Book Review Blog. ( )
  aya.herron | Sep 24, 2017 |
Yes, a story worth telling; but there is significant padding and excess wordage. ( )
  2wonderY | Jul 18, 2017 |
The Red Bandanna: A life, A Choice, A Legacy, Tom Rinaldi, author and narrator
A very fine young man, Welles Crowther, just 24 years old, gave his life attempting to save others on a dark day in our nation’s history. On 9/11/01, radical Islamists declared war on America and brought down the iconic Twin Towers, ending the lives of almost everyone who remained within them. Using our own jet planes as their weapons, they murdered thousands in cold-blood. There were many unsung heroes that day that still remain unknowable because there were then, and are now, no witnesses who remain alive to attest to their courage. Fortunately, for America, the bravery and sacrifice of Welles Crowther was remembered by two survivors and they told their story. This allowed him to represent those who gave their lives that day, trying to rescue others. He has been recognized and honored for his service to his fellow man, having more regard for their safety than for his own. Through the dedication and effort of those who knew this young man and knew of his fine character, his story has been told.
Crowther came from a family that supported his dreams; he worked as a volunteer fireman alongside his father for several years, beginning when he was just a teen. Achieving success in the world of finance, he worked in the World Trade Center on the 104th floor. However, he confided to his father that he could not see himself doing that for the rest of his life. He wanted to become a New York City firefighter. He was working to save a nest egg so that when he decided to settle down, he would be able to support a wife and family. Not a man motivated by financial gain, he was destined to become a hero as he was dedicated to serving others.
On September 11th, his own dreams were dashed, but in saving the lives of many others, he allowed their dreams to continue. There were far fewer survivors of the 9/11 attack than were expected, and this testimony about Welles Crowther’s actions that day is stirring. His was a voice, in the darkness and despair, amidst the confusion and pain that came out of nowhere and gave others the needed motivation to escape the inferno. He led them to the only stairwell available. For some, that couldn’t do it on their own, his back became their mode of transport. His behavior and his memory are inspiring and praiseworthy. A documentary has been made about him and his famed red bandanna hangs in the 9/11 museum. President Obama honored him and his family and he was made a member of the New York City Fire Department, fulfilling his dream, albeit posthumously.
Few survivors had a tale to tell us. There were so few. However, those who gave testimony about this young man, Welles, spoke so highly of him and of his unrelenting energy and devotion to whatever he did, not only that day, but always, that it seems apparent that his future would have been bright. The world will sorely miss this man of good character and wonder what further greatness he might have one day achieved.
I found the book to be an enlightening experience about the circumstances of that day, however, toward the end, it seemed a bit melodramatic. The author seemed to take special pains to mention the Clintons presence at the 9/11 dedication and the “radiant” Obama, without the concomitant, and I believe, necessary praise and comments that should have been included about the then (at the time of 9/11), President Bush and Mayor Giuliani, since they were both commanding and heroic in that moment of horror, encouraging Americans to be stronger in the face of the danger; both of them were actually there as witnesses to, and participants in, that event, both had to show America how to go forward. They united the country. It inserted a bit of unwanted politics into the book for me. Unfortunately, President Bush was not present on the day of the 9/11 museum’s dedication because of a conflict. On that day, he received the Patriot Award, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s highest recognition. Mayor Giuliani was there along with Bill and Hillary Clinton and Mayor Blumberg.
Rinaldi narrated the book himself, and did it well, speaking clearly and with the appropriate emotion and respect necessary for a subject that was both tragic and earth-shattering. ( )
  thewanderingjew | Oct 3, 2016 |
*I received a copy of this book through the publisher.*

It's been over fifteen years since September 11, 2001, and what struck me the most as I read this book was how much the shock and tragedy of that day had faded. This book chronicles the story of one of the heroes of that day, a young man who worked in the Twin Towers, but who was preparing to become a firefighter. Welles Crowther helped people escape the south tower, climbing up and down the one remaining staircase to help others escape, until he lost his life in the tower's collapse. I'm glad I read this book as it helped me to remember 9/11 and the heroes who died that day. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Oct 1, 2016 |
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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. Welles became a volunteer with the local fire department in New York. 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.--… (more)

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