September 6, 2011

Welles Crowther, a Voluntary Hero on 9/11

Here is another story about a 9/11 hero for you.  Twenty-four year old Welles Crowther was born near New York city.  He enjoyed hearing the stories of heroism his fire-fighter dad would tell him over dinner.  His dad taught Welles and his siblings many skills that would help in a disaster.  For one, his dad always carried a bandana in his back pocket and taught his sons to do the same.  If there was an emergency, a bandana came in very handy.  Welles carried a red bandana in his back pocket, always, even when he wore a suit.

Although Welles always dreamed of being a fire-fighter like his dad, he went to college instead and got a job helping people make money on investments.  He was at work on September 11th behind a desk at the World Trade Center when the disaster hit.  He was on the 104th floor!  Because of all of the things his dad had taught him as a boy, Welles knew what to do to help get everyone to safety.  He pulled out his bandana and used it as a face mask to breathe in the smoky building.  Then he started helping people get out of the building.  He went down several floors, directing people to the stairwells, telling them to help each other to leave the building.  He urged the ones who weren’t hurt to help the ones who were.  At one point, he carried a young woman down several floors until someone else could help her get out.  He kept going back up stairs, helping people get to the stairwells and get to the bottom of the building and outside.  He exited and went back inside at least 3 times to help the trapped victims get to safety.  

That day, Welles saved at least 18 people’s lives using his unofficial training and his heart.  Most of his co-workers got out and went home.  Welles stayed to save others.   One blogger named Cassy Fiano wrote, “Welles Crowther was an investment banker, not a firefighter or a police officer. He could have easily just exited the building and got himself to safety with no shame whatsoever. Instead, he found the courage to go above and beyond what was required of him, helping many people out of the tower and saving countless lives.”  Granted, others didn’t have his training either, so they may not have been able to help.  Welles knew what to do and was there when it happened.  

I like this story because it shows that even things people learn when they are young can come in handy.  And, as one of the 18 he saved said, "If he hadn't come back, I wouldn't have made it. People can live 100 years and not have the compassion, the wherewithal to do what he did."  His courage and compassion, combined with the skills his dad taught him made him a hero.  Granted, he didn’t save thousands, or even hundreds, just 18 people. But those people and their families will always be glad he saved them.

Sometimes the things we learn from our childhoods help us to be able to help others.

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