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.