As stories began to emerge from the survivors of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, several mentioned a mysterious young man who stepped out of the smoke and horror to lead them to safety. They did not know who this man was who saved their lives, but this they did remember: wrapped around his mouth and nose was a red bandanna.
For 76 minutes, the man in the red bandanna barked orders, and led people to safety down stairwells. He said, “I found the stairs, follow me.” He carried one woman down fifteen flights of stairs—on his back, while leading others to safety, urged them to keep going down, then headed back up.
Upstairs, a badly injured woman was sitting on a radiator when the man with the red bandanna over his face came running across the room and said, “Follow me. I know the way out. I will lead you to safety.” Then he led several survivors to a stairwell that took them to safety. He was never seen alive again.
Six months later, on March 19, 2002, the body of the man with the red bandanna was found intact alongside firefighters in a makeshift command center in the South Tower lobby, buried under 110 stories of rubble.
THE STORY COMES OUT
Slowly the story began to emerge. Welles Crowther graduated from Boston College where he played lacrosse, always carrying his trademark red bandanna—his dad carried a blue bandanna. In high school Welles was the kid who would feed the puck to the hockey team’s lowest-scoring player, hoping to give his teammate his first goal.
At 16 he became a junior volunteer firefighter, following in his dad’s footsteps. After college he joined Sandler O’Neil and Partners and worked on the 104th floor of the South Tower. He always carried change to give to street people. His dream was to become a firefighter or public servant. On Sept. 11, at the age of 24, Welles Crowther became both, and also a hero—the "man in the red bandanna."
“Follow me. I know the way out. I will lead you to safety.”
Welles was willing: willing to serve and to make a sacrifice for the good of others. He was also prepared: he trained so when the time came he was ready. Twenty-five percent of Secret Service duty is training— their credo: “repetitive training overcomes the negatives of self-sacrifice.”
Both willing and prepared, Welles did not miss his moment. He went up while everyone else was coming down.
Richard Foster wrote, “Superficiality is the curse of our age.... The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” Welles was that kind of man. Are you?
We have a great need. We need leaders willing to go up while everyone else is coming down—to rescue men and lead them to the safety of the cross of Christ. The Fellowship of the Red Bandanna is offered to people who are willing to train, serve, and make a sacrifice to engage every man in America with a credible offer of Christ and the resources to grow.
Brother Lawrence said, “I tell you that this sweet and loving gaze of God insensibly kindles a divine fire in the soul which is set ablaze so ardently with the love of God that one is obliged to perform exterior acts to moderate it.” Having heard about Welles, I know that I can never be happy unless I go up while others are coming down. Will you join me?
CALLING MEN TO FOLLOW
We need a legion of men who are passionate about calling men to the great adventure of following Jesus. We need men like Jeremiah, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9).
We need men willing to challenge the idols of the age, willing to show other men the foolishness of chasing money, power, sex, pleasure, or relationships when they have the option of following Christ. We need men who will say with Paul, “It’s all trash compared to the thirst-quenching joy of knowing Jesus” (Philippians 3:7 ff). We need men willing to say to other men, “You are wasting your time unless you are losing your life for Christ’s sake.” Our hearts were made for God and nothing will make us happy except Him.
Men without Christ are in a burning building, desperate for a way of escape. They need a leader who will lead them to the safety of the cross—to rescue them.
Are you someone who is willing to go up while others are coming down? If so, it is our privilege and honor to invite you to be part of The Fellowship of the Red Bandanna. Do you accept? If yes, and we were together in person, I would now personally hand you a red bandanna and a copy of this story.
Since we're not together in person, to complete your initiation into The Fellowship of the Red Bandanna...
look around the website for ideas you can use to expand The Fellowship of the Red Bandanna.
RECEIVE A COMPLIMENTARY RED BANDANNA
When you register, if you check the appropriate box we will send you a complimentary red bandanna to commemorate your membership (while supplies last, or you can go to a local party supply store to purchase one). Many men have been framing their bandannas with a copy of the story.
When you register, you can also elect to receive regular emails from Man in the Mirror to educate you about us, the Christian men’s movement, and resources to help you reach more men.
If you are a leader, once registered you are hereby authorized to initiate other leaders into The Fellowship of the Red Bandanna. Please note that the fellowship is for leaders who are giving themselves to reaching other men. Find suggestions for how to conduct your own initiation ceremonies at www.redbandanna.org.
OF ADDITIONAL INTEREST
Welles favorite number was 19. That was the number on his sports uniforms. That was the date in March, 2002 when his remains were found. His father, Jeff, had the number 19 tattooed over his heart.
When Jeff and Alison, father and mother to Welles, went through personal effects in his apartment they found an application to the FDNY. It was two-thirds completed. Welles was survived by his parents and two younger sisters, Honor and Paige. See a powerpoint presentation with pictures of Welles keyed to the story above at www.redbandanna.org.
The website picture of Welles with the FDNY firefighter was taken on a fire boat by his father Jeff. Welles insisted that the World Trade Center be captured in the background. Missing from the Boston College graduation photo—Welles’ mother was cropped out of the picture.
More than 1,000 people crammed the Grace Episcopal Church in Nyack, N.Y. for his memorial service, and the street had to be closed outside to accommodate the overflow crowd and the fire trucks.
Compiled from news reports and personal discussions with Alison Crowther.
Who are the men to whom you need to say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Why not make a list of names or initials and pray for these men each week?
Who are the other leaders with whom you would like to share this story? Why not send them a copy or point them to the website and then have an initiation ceremony to cement your commitment to reaching men?