His Parents Had No Clue What Happened to Their Son on 9/11. But Then They Saw the Words ‘Red Handkerchief’

If you had only an hour left to live on Earth, how would you spend it? Welles Remy Crowther spent it helping others to safety.

welles 911 featureThat’s when the first plane crashed into the building. Immediately, he dialed his mom to let her know that everything was okay and that he was alive.

“Mom, this is Welles. I want you to know that I’m okay,” he said in a voicemail.

Those were the last words Allison Crowther ever heard from him.

Growing up, Welles was given a red handkerchief by his father, Jefferson, and instructed him to carry it around. By the time he reached the age of six, it became an accessory that he never left home without.

“He loved that red bandana, and he always had it with him,” his father recalled.

At the age of 16, he was so interested in becoming a firefighter that he signed up to be a junior firefighter at the local department. Whether at the fire house or on the lacrosse field, he was always a team player, always doing what he could to help out others around him. Even then, he never lost sight of that red bandana.

Fast forward a few years — he’s now an equities trader on Wall Street, though his true passion was to one day become a New York City firefighter.

Sadly, he was never able to live out that dream.

When the second plane crashed into the South Tower, his parents knew that the worst possible scenario was unfolding right before their eyes on television. Their son was dead. What they weren’t aware of at that time was that Welles spent the final moments of his life trying to save the lives of others. They had no idea that he had died a hero.

It wasn’t until several months later, when the New York Times published an article to report the accounts of several survivors.

An excerpt from the article read:

A mysterious man appeared at one point, his mouth and nose covered with a red handkerchief. He was looking for a fire extinguisher. As Judy Wein recalls, he pointed to the stairs and made an announcement that saved lives: Anyone who can walk, get up and walk now. Anyone who can perhaps help others, find someone who needs help and then head down.

A few minutes behind this group was Ling Young, who also survived the impact in the sky lobby. She, too, said she had been steered by the man in the red bandanna, hearing him call out: This way to the stairs.

The moment Jefferson and Allison read the words “red handkerchief,” they knew the woman was talking about their beloved son, Welles. Until that moment, they had no idea of whereabouts, as his body was never discovered in the rubble.

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