What makes someone a hero?
Bravery is a quality I think strongly correlates with a hero. But I also believe that many heroes are terrified when facing hard circumstances, though it’s their ability to overcome that fear that makes them so honorable.
On 9/11, Welles Crowther gave his life and became a true American hero. He was not a firefighter, he was not a police officer. He was a 24-year-old equities trader for Sandler O’Neill and Partner whose office in the World Trade Center was hit on that fateful day.
Minutes after the plane struck the South Tower, Welles called his mother and left her a short but powerful message: “Mom, this is Welles. I wanted you to know that I’m OK.”
After he hung up, Welles proceeded to encounter a group of survivors trying to flee the tower. One of those survivors was Ling Young, one of the 200 victims who’d been waiting by an elevator when the first plane struck. She’d been blinded by the plane crash and wouldn’t have made it had it not been for Welles carrying her out.
The young man wore a bandana around his face, leading survivors to call him the “Red Bandana Man.” He led the group down 15 flights before dropping Ling off and rushing back up to help others. It was then that he saved Judy Wein, who worked on the 103rd floor and had a broken arm and ribs, along with a punctured lung.
According to Judy, Welles put out fires and directed all the survivors on what to do. He ordered those who could to stand, and those who could walk to help others.
“People can live 100 years and not have the compassion, the wherewithal to do what he did,” Judy said. Thanks to his heroic acts, Welles saved at least 12 lives in the World Trade Center.
He was last seen entering the South Tower to continue his rescue efforts. Sadly, the building collapsed later that morning. His body was not recovered until March 19, 2002, alongside other civilian heroes, firefighters, and emergency workers.
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