Rinaldi’s ‘Red Bandanna’ Traces Origins of a Hero

“What would you do in the last hour of your life?” That’s the question asked in the opening of “Man In The Red Bandanna,” an ESPN video feature on Welles Crowther, a former Boston College lacrosse player who died in the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center. The story goes on to explain what Crowther did in the last hour of his. You can watch it below.

Tom Rinaldi, the ESPN reporter who researched the story and wrote that script in 2011, now has written a book that explores in great depth how and why Crowther did what he did in the last hour of his life.

“The Red Bandanna,” from Penguin Random House, will be released Sept. 6. It is available for pre-order here.

“More than any other book I have read in a very long time,” writes Dennis Smith, a retired New York City firefighter and author, “it convincingly tells the story of how great men and women become great — how cultural, community and spiritual drives can develop that inner character that will make the world a better place.”

Rinaldi digs deep into Crowther’s life, unearthing anecdotes from the young man’s childhood that begin to explain the origins of the character, courage and heroism Welles would come to demonstrate under the most dire of circumstances on Sept. 11, 2011.

Only some of those anecdotes relate to lacrosse, and this really isn’t a story about a lacrosse player. But lacrosse was a constant in Crowther’s life from the time he was very young until he graduated from Boston College, and as such the sport played at least a small part in shaping his character. And that character is really what this story is about.

Even if you have seen the video — and I’ve watched it more than a dozen times — the book is worth your time. It’s one thing to honor the memory of a fallen hero for his or her deeds. It’s entirely another to explore how and why they came to perform those deeds.

What motivated Welles Crowther, who was in the relative safety of a stairwell and heading down and out of the building when the 767 jet hit the South Tower, to stop and help injured victims down 17 flights of stairs … and then go back up to help save even more?

Rinaldi’s reporting paints a vivid picture of a hero in training. By the time his account reaches Sept. 11, 2011, you understand precisely why Crowther did what he did in the last hour of his life, and it’s not in the least bit surprising.

The question for the rest of us, though, remains: What would you do?

Pre-order your copy of “The Red Bandanna.”