Always remember. Never forget.
Via NY Post.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Welles Crowther sat at his desk on the 104th floor in the south tower of the World Trade Center and dialed his mother’s cellphone. His mother, Alison, never heard the call. Welles left a short message. “Mom . . . this is Welles. I . . . I want you to know that I’m OK.”
The time was 9:12 a.m. They were the last words his family would ever hear him speak.
Some details of what happened next remain a mystery. But through determination, careful questioning and a single clue, Welles’ parents uncovered a story of heroism that would touch a nation….
Twenty-four years old and fresh from college, Welles put his firefighting ambitions aside for a job with Sandler O’Neill, a small but powerful investment banking firm in the World Trade Center.
He may have looked the part of an investment banker, but there was one unorthodox piece to his personal dress code, not visible at first. It was a constant, tucked in the back right pocket of every set of trousers and every pair of suit pants.
It was a red bandanna his father had given him when he was a boy….
Six months later, on March 19, 2002, Welles’ body was found….
He was recovered in the debris of what had been the lobby of the south tower. Welles had somehow made it to the bottom of the building before it collapsed. Why didn’t he make it out?….
“People found in that area,” said John Ryan, the commander of the Port Authority Police Department’s rescue and recovery operation at Ground Zero, “were seconds away from being clear.”
To be so close to an escape but to remain inside was not coincidence. Likely, it was a choice. Welles made it. He was helping. He was at work.
They needed to find out more….
On Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend 2002, Alison opened the New York Times and saw a feature piece on the front page with the large headline “Fighting to Live as the Towers Died.”
By the 128th paragraph of the story, Alison stopped, staring at the two sentences: A mysterious man appeared at one point, his mouth and nose covered with a red handkerchief. He was looking for a fire extinguisher.
She was gripped by the three simple words: A red handkerchief….
From there, she tracked down one of the survivors featured in the story, a woman named Judy Wein.
When they spoke, Judy told Alison there was an email chain connecting a group of south-tower survivors, the few who’d made it out from the 78th-floor sky lobby or above. She and her husband, Gerry, would send the inquiry down the line, to see who might have seen the man, if anyone else spotted a red bandanna.
Then Alison asked a simple question: “Can I send you a picture of my son?”
When the picture reached her, Judy didn’t hesitate in her ¬response. “Yes,” Judy said, “that was the man.”
….Judy and Gerry sent the photo of Welles out through the survivors’ email chain. Was there anyone else who escaped the building who ¬remembered seeing this man?
A reply came quickly, not from a survivor but the child of one. Richard Young saw the email and wondered if this was the man his mother, Ling, had told him about from the beginning, the man who walked with her down the stairs from the wreckage of the sky lobby, on the 78th floor
….Her injuries and severe burns didn’t register; there was no pain, the hurt smothered by shock. She continued to sit where she was, on a portion of the floor still ¬intact, uncertain what to do.
That’s when she heard the young man’s voice.
“I found the stairs,” the voice said. “Follow me. Only help the ones that you can help….
Alison sent Ling Young a picture of her son dressed formally, for his college graduation. Young couldn’t be sure, so Alison sent another, more casual photo.
Ling looked at the man she’d never seen before Sept. 11, whom she last saw turning to go back up the stairs to the blood and fire.
The face. She looked at nothing more than the face.
One word: Yes.
One thought: He saved my life….
The FDNY credits Welles with saving at least five people. It is impossible to say for sure, but it could’ve been more.
The story of the man in the red bandanna, and those he saved, would spread….
In December 2006, Welles’ family gathered in Downtown Brooklyn for an event held just once before in the 141 years since the FDNY’s founding. It was only the second time the department would posthumously name someone an honorary member of its ranks.
Months before, Jeff had found an application to the FDNY in Welles’ apartment. Several of the lines were filled in, dated just a month before his death.
Now four years later, Jeff hoped Welles would know that although some of the lines would forever be blank, his application to the FDNY was received, his submission reviewed.
Yes, Welles. You were accepted.