Eighteen years after Welles Remy Crowther died on September 11, 2001, helping people escape the South Tower of the World Trade Center, his mother and sister have found solace in knowing his was a life truly well-lived.
“Welles’s friends say ‘Wherever we went, if Welles was with us, we always knew he had our back.’ He was a loyal friend, he was very protective of others,” his mother, Alison Crowther, told the crowd gathered Sunday evening for the 18th Morris County Remembers 9/11 Remembrance and Candlelight Service.
Alison Crowther and her daughter, Honor (Crowther) Fagan were introduced as the remembrance ceremony keynote speakers by Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, who told the crowd that Welles Crowther was a hero who disregarded his own safety to rescue others after the terrorist attacks.
The ceremony at the September 11th Memorial on West Hanover Avenue in Parsippany drew dozens of firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians from around the county to pay honor to the lives of the first responders and civilians killed in the attacks, including 64 Morris County residents.
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard performed the 21-gun salute at the ceremony and the Sheriff’s Office command staff paid their respects to the memories of the victims and their families, including the parents of 27-year-old 9/11 victim Maria Theresa Santillan of Parsippany. Her father, Expedito C. Santillan, was flag bearer for the ceremony.
“We call them heroes – men and women who put their own lives at risk for the greater good of others. These brave men and women did what they were trained to do. They did it without question. But there were others who also didn’t hesitate to act on that deadly day,” Sheriff Gannon said.
Welles Crowther, a 24-year-old rookie equities trader who was working on the 104th floor of the South Tower, was among the bravest that day, the Sheriff said.
With the red bandanna his father gave him when he was a child wrapped around his mouth, Welles Crowther repeatedly returned to the South Tower to save others and carried one woman down 17 floors before the South Tower collapsed. His remains were identified six months later.
He became known as the “Man in the Red Bandanna” for the red handkerchief he wore as a protective mask, and his story has been told in the documentary film, Man In The Red Bandanna.
A resident of Rockland County, N.Y., he is annually honored by his alma mater, Boston College. After his death, he was named an honorary New York City firefighter and his heroism was cited by President Barack Obama in the 2014 dedication of the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
His sister, Honor Fagan, asked the audience to reflect on how they hope to be remembered when they die. Alison Crowther said she hopes that young people, particularly those born after September 11, 2001, will move through their lives with faith and the ability to care about others.
“Good will conquer, good will conquer evil,” she said.