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The Red Bandanna

Max interviews ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi about The Red Bandana in New York City

Maxwell asks ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi about Welles Crowther, who was killed helping others at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

“He was a hero—humble, courageous, and true,” said ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi about Welles Remy Crowther, a stock trader and volunteer firefighter who was killed in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Crowther is the subject of Rinaldi’s The Red Bandanna: a Life, a Choice, a Legacy (Penguin Press, 2016), as well as an adaptation of the book for kids (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017). The story tells how Crowther was on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, when it was struck by an airplane. The North Tower had already been hit.

Instead of rushing downstairs to safety, Crowther led at least a dozen strangers to safety that fateful day. He even carried a woman down more than 20 flights of stairs, only to go back up to help others. Survivors did not know his name. But they remembered that he had worn a red bandanna.



Rinaldi learned about Crowther’s story from a colleague, Drew Gallagher, who had been Crowther’s classmate at Boston College.

“From the first moments of him describing the story to me, I told him that I wanted to be a part of telling it on television,” Rinaldi said. “Perhaps no story we’ve [ESPN] ever done on TV has resonated as much as this one, and that’s part of what launched it into becoming a book.”

From reporting to writing, Rinaldi spent 18 months on the project. He still keeps in touch with Crowther’s family and some of the people he interviewed for the book. In honor of Crowther, Rinaldi often carries a red bandanna in his pocket.

“It represents a reminder of what we can do for one another,” Rinaldi said, adding that violence and hatred “can be defeated by the power of love, even the love and community among people who have never met.”



The story about Crowther is tragic, but also filled with hope. “We all ask ourselves—I know I asked myself countless times while writing the book: ‘What would I have done?’” Rinaldi said. “I don’t think I would have done what Welles did, which makes me even more thankful that there are people out there who would risk their lives.”

Rinaldi lives in New Jersey with his wife, Dianne, and their children, Jack and Tessa. During my interview with him in New York City, he told me how much the attacks and stories like Crowther’s affected him.

“Welles’s example has challenged me in every way, the type of neighbor I am, the type of friend I am, and maybe most of all, the type of father I am,” Rinaldi said. “The closeness that Welles had with his parents, and ultimately how much he learned from them and how much he was shaped by their example, I desperately hope that I can in some way be part of that example to my kids.”

Photo courtesy of the author