It is called Patriot Day, a day symbolic of unselfish sacrifice by those in uniform and those who were not, all following a righteous path against evil who unlike the terrorists who dedicated their lives to destruction and death, these men and women embraced the words from sacred scripture: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” This was not in their plans on that clear, fall, day, in which the world changed on that Tuesday at 8:46 AM when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, but their life of service was who they were, and how they died. The rest, innocent people, going about their life that day. Some, wrong place at the wrong time.
Cantor Fitzgerald, a financial firm founded in 1945, whose offices were in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, lost 658 employees. At the time of the attack, Cantor CEO, Howard Lutnick was taking his son Kyle to his first day of class—kindergarten. That was why he was not in the office on that morning. Not only did he lose 658 employees, among them was his best friend and his brother, Gary, age 39. Mr. Lutnick had a decision to make. Close the firm, or reopen and work harder, so he could donate 25% of everything they would make to the families, which is what he did. And he also made a pledge to hire any child of those who died. “I’ve offered a job to every single kid. If they want to work at Cantor Fitzgerald, I’ll find out a way to give them a shot.” There are 57 children of those employees, who now work at that company. Howard Lutnick became a hero in response to this national day of terror, loss, death, and devastation.
And then there was one who was there, who should have survived and did not. Mr. Lutnick was not there for a reason, maybe divine intervention? Was it possible that this young man was also there for a reason?
South Tower of the World Trade Center: 9:12 AM, nine minutes after the United Airlines Flight 175 struck the building, this young man called his mother from his office leaving a message to say that he was “OK.” He made his way to the 78th floor, and found a group of survivors. He carried an injured woman on his back and led this group to a stairway and down 17 floors to safety. He sent them down and who then went back up the stairs. By the time he returned to the 78th floor, he had a bandana around his nose and mouth to try to protect himself from the smoke. He found another group of survivors, one a woman , Judy Wein, injured with a broken arm and broken ribs. According to Ms. Wein, the young man gave first aid, helped put out the surrounding fire, and then announced to the group: “Everyone who can stand, stand now. If you can, help others do so.” He led these people down the stairs to safety. He could have stayed with them and assisted those in need there, and continue out into the street and away from the building. Instead, as a volunteer fire fighter, as a Boston College graduate, as a varsity athlete, he went back in to rescue others. The tower collapsed, he did not return home to his family. His body was found in March 2002, alongside several fire fighters.
His family was unaware of the details as to what happened to their son, until an article in the New York Times on Memorial Day, May 26, 2002, that described Judy Wein’s firsthand account of “being saved by a man in a red bandana.” When Allison Crowther read this article, she started reading out loud to her husband. They knew for the first time the details of the last morning of their son, Welles Crowther’s life.
When Welles was eight years old, his father gave him two handkerchiefs, one a white pocket square, and the other a red bandana—“one to show and one to blow.” Welles, who after that day, was never without a red bandana. “He wore it under his hockey and fire helmets as a teen and under his lacrosse helmet while playing for Boston College. He carried it in the pocket of his business suit every day to the World Trade Center. And I have carried this bandana with me on every September 11th since learning of this incredible story. Welles’ father was a volunteer member of the Local Empire Hook & Ladder Co. in their hometown in New York. At age 7, Welles helped clean fire trucks. At age 16, he was a junior member and at age 18, he was a full fire fighter. A few weeks before the attack on 9/11, Welles told his father he was leaving his finance job to become a New York City fire fighter. Jeff Crowther found a partially completed application in his son’s Manhattan apartment after his death. Welles Crowther was 24 years old.
We salute the heroes, the survivors, and all 2,977 people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 which included 343 members of New York City Fire Department, 23 New York City Police Officers and 37 Port Authority Officers. Their memories will be cherished and their valor and courage will always be honored. The heart felt loss of their family continues, only more tolerable with time, and like Welles Crowthers, they will never be forgotten.