BOSTON, Mass. — This past summer, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney took his sons Will, Drew and Clay to New York to see a New York Yankees baseball game. It was a great family moment for the Swinneys, who love the game of baseball as much as they do football.
But the trip wasn’t just about seeing a baseball game. Swinney also wanted them to see where the World Trade Center Towers stood and how American History, and World History for that matter, changed on September 11, 2001.
The Swinneys actually went to the top of the Freedom Tower, the 100th floor, and looked down to where the Trade Center Towers were.
“It was a powerful time for me and my family. Obviously my kids were younger, and it was something that I wanted them to know about. You see the memorial and the stories, and then you hear about a young man like Welles Crowther and it’s powerful,” Swinney said, whose third-ranked Tigers will play at Boston College on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Welles Crowther was a 24-year old Boston College graduate, who gave his own life, while trying to save others, on that horrific day we have all come to know as 9/11. Crowther, who worked as an equities trader in the South Tower, is said to have saved at least a dozen lives and maybe more after United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower between floors 78 and 85 at 9:03 that morning.
Crowther, who worked on the 104th floor of the South Tower, made his way down the 78th floor sky lobby where he already rescued one young woman and was carrying her on his back. He then directed the survivors on the 78th floor to the stairway and took them 15 flights down before dropping them and the injured woman he was carrying off. He then raced back upstairs to help more survivors.
When he got upstairs, Crowther had covered his mouth and noise with a red bandanna to fight off the smoke and the haze. He then assisted in putting out the fires, administered first aid to those injured and then announced that all of those that could stand to please stand up and help those who could not, and then directed them down the stairs as well.
“If he hadn’t come back, I wouldn’t have made it,” said Judy Wein, who worked on the 103rd floor, in an article written in The Los Angeles Times in May of 2014. “People can live one hundred years and not have the compassion, the wherewithal to do what he did.”
After Crowther saved Wein and the others, he again went back inside to help more people and did it over and over again. He was last seen going in with the New York City fire department before the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m.
According to Wikipedia, at the National 9/11 Memorial, Crowther is memorialized at the South Pool, on Panel S-50. President Barack Obama during his May 15, 2014, dedication of the museum, focused on Crowther’s heroism in his speech. As images of Crowther flashed on a screen behind him, Obama said, “They didn’t know his name. They didn’t know where he came from. But they knew their lives had been saved by the man in the red bandanna. He called for fire extinguishers to fight back the flames. He tended to the wounded. He led those survivors down the stairs to safety, and carried a woman on his shoulders down 17 flights. Then he went back. Back up all those flights. Then back down again, bringing more wounded to safety. Until that moment when the tower fell.”
The red bandanna was Crowther’s signature piece of clothing. It was given to him by his father when he was little boy and it was a symbol of his relationship with his dad. He kept with him in everything he did, including in his lacrosse helmet when he played for Boston College.
Swinney was not aware of Crowther or his story until ESPN’s Tom Ranaldi told him last week in reference that Boston College has designated the Clemson game as the “The Red Bandanna Game.” Ranaldi wrote The New York Times best-selling book, The Red Bandanna, which documents Crowther’s life.
“I didn’t know what it was all about,” Swinney said “So I did a little research, and watched a video, and man it is unbelievable. One of the most inspirational stories I have ever seen, or heard about. The particular video that I watched was just powerful.”
This will be the third Red Bandanna Game the Eagles have hosted. The first was a 37-31 upset of then ninth-ranked Southern Cal as BC players wore uniforms symbolizing Crowther’s red bandanna, including a helmet stripe, cleats and gloves that have a red bandanna pattern. They played a top 10 Florida State squad tough last year in the second Red Bandanna Game.
“They’re going to come into our backyard and for everybody in the Northeast to have a chance to come watch that game on a Friday night it will be a great atmosphere. It’s a Red Bandanna game, celebrating the life of Welles Crowther and his selflessness,” Boston College head coach Steve Addazio said. “I think it will be a great atmosphere and obviously a tremendous challenge for us.”
Swinney said Clemson is honored to be a part of a tribute to Crowther, who he called “a true American Hero.”
“It is just unbelievable what he did and to hear people speak about how he saved their lives and they didn’t know who he was,” Swinney said. “He just reacted and took action. I don’t know how many lives that he saved. He could have left but he went back.
“We look forward to being a part of that moment as well with the Boston College folks. We have a lot of respect for Boston College… I think there is a great respect from the Clemson side to the BC side. It is a game that we look forward to every year, and this year it is even more special to be a part of it in honoring this young man here that is a true American Hero.”
–Photo graphic courtesy Boston College Athletics Twitter