The Red Bandana Band’s Namesake

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The Chris Heider Band became The Red Bandana Band the day after my bandmates and I performed our very first concert at Clifton Opera House in Clifton, Ohio, Saturday, July 13, 2019. We drew one of the largest debut crowds COH ever had with 80 plus in attendance. And, we received two standing ovations before the night was over. So, if our band’s name wasn’t broke, why fix it?

For me, the answer was simple. As my band’s front man, I didn’t want our band’s name to be about me. I wanted it to honor someone’s memory. A good and honest human being who paid a price. Perhaps the ultimate price. Someone who gave his or her life and displayed tremendous courage and honor in the worst of circumstances. Someone we could pay tribute to before and at the end of every performance and encourage others to do the same. Truth be told, at that point, I already knew who that individual was.

Performing music for a large crowd is a tremendous rush. Honoring the loving memory of a good an honest human being makes what my bandmates and I love doing even more memorable and gratifying. The individual I chose was a young man in his early 20s who perished on September 11, 2001 after saving upwards of 18 lives in Tower II of The World Trade Center in New York City. His name – Welles Remy Crowther. “The Man In The Red Bandana!”

According to many of the people whose lives he saved, Welles used a red handkerchief (bandana) to shield his eyes, nose, and throat from toxic jet black smoke and fumes from one of four hijacked aircrafts that 19 Middle Eastern terrorists flew into Towers I and II of the WTC, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and into the ground in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers made an unsuccessful bid to retake control of the aircraft. At 9:03 AM on that beautiful Septermber day, United Airlines Flight 175 burst into flames after piercing Tower II WTC between the 78th and 87th floors.

The red bandana Welles used for protection was a gift his father, Jefferson Crowther. had given him as a youth growing up in Nyack, New York. “He carried it with him everywhere he went.” his father said. “He was never without it.” Welles revered both of his parents and had a special bond with both of them. When Welles’s selfless heroics were uncovered nearly a year after the 911 attacks, that red bandana became a badge of honor. A symbol of the indisputable power of laying down one’s life for others. One that tragically accompanied Welles to his death that fateful day.

Welles wore the bandana as a co-captain of his high school hockey team. He wore it as a captain of his NCAA Division I Lacrosse team at Boston College in Newton, MA. And, he wore it as a 16-year old volunteer Nyack firefighter where he learned to fiight fires and take bold, decisive action in medical emergencies. According to the Nyack Fire Department, “Welles had the right stuff!”

Upon graduating from Boston College in 1999, Welles landed a job as an equities trader on the 104th floor of Tower II WTC. Occupants of Tower II, including Welles, were in the process of evacuating the building when Welles called his mother, Allison Crowther, to assure her “I’m okay.” Not long afterward, United 175 struck Tower II and erupted into an atomic bomb-like fireball. How Welles ended up on the 78th floor is an unknown. It was there, however, that he committed his firefighting and first responder skills into action.

Based on firsthand accounts from survivors Welles led to safety, Welles discovered the only working stairwell in Tower II not long after it was hit. He located a fire extinguisher and began putting out fires, freeing trapped victims, and providing whatever medical care and comfort he could. He gave explicit directions to survivors, “If you can stand, stand now. If you can help others, do so.” He then led them to the stairwell. Some were badly burned, injured, or in a state of shock. But, they did as they were instructed. When they reached the stairwell, Welles led them to the 61st floor where exhausted firefighters who made the climb met them and led them to safety. Then, Welles returned to the 78th floor to assist more victims. He repeated the process three times. It was truly an incredible and remarkable act of valor and honor.

Tragically, Welles perished when Tower II collapsed at 9:59 AM, 56-minutes after it was struck. Some nine months later, his largely intact bodily remains were discovered on the ground floor of Tower II near the bodies of hundreds of firefighters. It’s believed that Welles and a group of firefighters were planning on returning to the 78th floor with the “Jaws of Life” to free more victims and lead them to safety.

I learned about Welles’s story from my son, Benjamin, who attended Boston College from 2008-2012. An ESPN film crew produced a 13-minute video documentary on Welles’s life and his heroics on 911 and named it, “The Man In The Red Bandana.” It was filmed on “Red Bandana Day” at BC, a day when Welles’s memory is still honored at a 5K “Red Bandana Run” and later that evening at a BC home  “Red Bandana football game.” As things turned out, Ben ran the 5K race and is in the ESPN video. I was moved to tears. After forming The Chris Heider Band in 2018, the decision to rename in Welles’s honor was basically a no-brainer.  The Red Bandana Band was born a little over a year later.

For more information about Welles Remy Crowther, I highly recommend you watch the ESPN video, The Man In The Red Bandana. And, if you’re interested, I was so moved by Welles’s story that I wrote a song and made a video in his honor entitled, My Red Bandana Man.” My goal in writing the song and making the video was to give viewers an opportunity to put themselves in the shoes I imagined Welles’s walking and running in on that horrible September day. I am forever in awe of his courage, his selflessness, and his compassion for others. A portion of our band proceeds is donated to the Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust after every Red Bandnana Band performance. Welles was all about paying it forward. Contributing financially offers each of us an opportunity to be on Welles’s team. The “There’s no I in team” Team. Please consider donating.

Thank you for reading this blog and visiting My bandmates and I hope to see you at an upcoming Red Bandana Band performance. You can find a growing list of those performances and my one-man band act, Chris Heider – Just Passing Through on my Upcoming Events page. If you’d like to hire me or my band, please subscribe to my site via my Contacts/Bookings page. Thanks so much!

Peace to all!

Chris Heider

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