BC’s Red Bandanna Run commemorates 9/11 selfless act
By Kelly Thomas | October 18, 2016, 6:17 EDT
BOSTON – Standing at the finish line of Boston College’s Red Bandanna Run this past Saturday, Alison Crowther bounced with energy, tirelessly calling encouragement to each of the nearly 2,000 participants in the race, waving a red bandanna back and forth. Each runner, also wearing a crimson bandanna, gets a congratulations and a smile as Alison thanks them for participating in the race, held at BC every year, in honor of her son, Welles, who lost his life on 9/11.
Welles Remy Crowther, known as the “Man in the Red Bandanna” graduated from Boston College in 1999, followed by his two younger sisters, Paige and Honor Crowther. On campus, Welles was known for the red bandanna his father gave him as a child, and which he carried with him always, from the classroom to the sports field.
On September 11th, Welles was working in his office, on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower. After a plane crashed into his building, Welles called his mother Alison to tell her he was safe before he evacuated the building. That was the last time his family heard from him. Welles’ remains were later found among those of New York City’s firemen in the rubble.
The following spring, Alison saw a New York Times article quoting a woman who said that on 9/11 a “man in a red bandanna” had carried her down 17 flights of stairs in the South Tower to reach first responders. The man, whom the article did not name, then ran back up the stairs to guide another group down to safety. Other survivors in the article said the anonymous hero, determined to help as many as he could, ascended a third time, but never completed the trip.
Convinced the man in the red bandanna was her son, Alison sent Welles’ photo to the survivors cited in the article, who confirmed his identity, thus explaining why Welles himself had not made it to safety. He is credited with saving at least 12 lives before his death.
Determined to honor Welles’ sacrifice, the Crowther family established the Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust, which supports young men and women who are leaders in their community and possess the same drive to help others as Welles did, even in his final moments.
The Trust is funded through events and donations, one of the largest of which is Boston College’s annual 5K Red Bandanna Run. It began a few years after Welles’ death, when a few of his friends ran the New York City Marathon in his honor, proudly carrying red bandannas for the 26.2 miles.
The Crowther family then took the event to Boston College, the community that had played such a large role in the life of their son and brother. From there, Dan Ponsetto, the Welles R. Crowther Director for Volunteer and Service Learning took the idea of a red bandanna run and turned it into a yearly fundraiser, bringing in first a hundred or so students and now attracting nearly 2,000 runners from BC and around the nation. On Friday alone, Welles’ sister Honor told the NewBostonPost, over 750 BC students registered for the run, proving what an impact her brother continues to have on the Boston College campus.
Alison said that for her, every year she is most moved by how many turn out to honor her fallen son. “I look out and I see this sea of faces, all here to honor Welles and his legacy. Most of them didn’t know him personally, but they know what he’s done and what is still being done in his name.”
For freshman Rayan Habbab, this event only reaffirmed his decision to come to BC. “[This race] is a testament to what kind of school BC is….it’s very moving to see the community come together like this.” Habbab said.
Madeline Price, a sophomore, echoed his sentiment, adding that Welles was the “embodiment” of BC’s values, and that his legacy has served to pull an already tight-knit community even closer.
In his opening remarks before the race, Welles’ father Jeff welcomed the assembled runners. Emotion choking his voice, he thanked them all for coming to pay tribute to his son’s joyful spirit and his selfless heroism.
“Being with you all, and seeing you here, I know Welles is with us, and it’s like I have my son standing next to me today.”
Contact Kelly Thomas at [email protected].