Former Boston College lacrosse player Welles Crowther passed away on Sept. 11, 2001 selflessly rescuing people stuck in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. The heart and spirit of his actions, though, live on stronger than ever.
On Monday night, the BC men’s lacrosse team convened at Roggie’s Bar and Grille to honor a member of the team that personified Crowther: he was a man with grace and compassion that, in an act of sheer courage, shed his duties as a Sandler O’Neill equities trader and assumed the role of New York City firefighter.
His actions on that fateful day saved at least 12 lives according to eyewitness reports. His body was found three months after the attacks, buried beneath the wreckage of the South Tower. Many of the rescued identified him as the “Man with the Red Bandana,” which ESPN featured in Outside the Lines a few years ago.
Crowther epitomized the Jesuit mission of “men and women for others,” a saying imbued in the fabric of Boston College and central to all who choose to live their lives with the utmost compassion and dignity. His legacy lives on at BC through moments such as on Monday night, as every year, a player exemplifying Crowther’s remarkable character is selected by the coaching staff to receive the jersey.
Head Coach Kevin Orcutt honored Gavin Tisdale, a senior hailing from Fairfield, CT, by presenting him the No. 19 jersey—a now-iconic number once worn by Crowther in the late 90s.
Tisdale was incredibly blessed to have been the recipient of the honor. “He was a real life superhero in my eyes. Instead of a red cape, he had a red bandanna,” he said, “To have the opportunity to be associated with a man of that sort of caliber is an incredible experience. It is an awfully tall order but I will do my best to represent his legacy.”
Team Captain John Lambrecht said of Tisdale receiving the honor, “He is always the first to give support and help out his peers, something that is not easy to accomplish. No one deserves this more.”
While the event was modest and casual—far from the elegance of some black-tie awards banquet—it carried much meaning for all of the BC lacrosse team.
Freshman midfielder Quinn Ward spoke of the impact the ceremony had on the team saying, “The entire occasion was really touching and brought us all together. To be able to come together and remember Welles means a lot, especially when everyone on the team strives to be the man that he was—caring, compassionate, and courageous in his actions.”
In ESPN’s Outside the Lines feature below, Welles’ father, Jefferson Crowther, says in the beginning, “No greater love hath one than to lay down his life for his fellow man.”
A simple expression of unrequited love, Lambrecht drew upon the concept deeply during the ceremony.
The junior attackman remarked, “Every time we step on the field, that [No. 19] jersey and those red bandanas help us to remember that the game is not about winning and losing, it is about keeping the promise to your teammate that you will do everything in your power to help the team perform its best.”
While the battles on the lacrosse field are incomparable to the struggle faced by Crowther on 9/11, the players can take heart in knowing that replicating Welles’ in the slightest fashion—whether it be taking a hit, scooping up a groundball in traffic or running extra sprints at the end of practice—means they are doing something right.
It’s what Crowther, who never thought twice about putting others in front of his own life, would want them to do.