Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Penguin Books
I won and received this bound proof about a month ago, had only a vague recollection what it was about (I’d promptly forgotten after entering the contest), and thought it might be WWII-related fiction, because a lot is these days. Since it had been staring at me for a month, I picked it up yesterday afternoon, read the synopsis, and realized how wrong I was.
The Red Bandanna is a non-fiction account of a young man, Welles Crowther, who helped numerous people escape from the South Tower on 9/11.
I read this book quickly. I couldn’t seem to help myself. I have not been one to read books about 9/11 or see movies. There is too much that seems too vividly etched in my mind to want to revisit that day, but this book is a game changer.
I imagine that Welles Crowther could have been considered average. He was picked on when he was young because he was smaller than the other boys–these days it’s called bullying–but he grew tough, not violent. He played sports: hockey and lacrosse. He was smart and funny and wanted to be a fireman. He did become a volunteer fireman in Nyack, the town where he grew up, but went to Boston College and became a Wall Street trader instead. On the day of 9/11, he was at work on the 104th floor of the South Tower.
To say I liked or enjoyed this book would be untrue. The Red Bandanna becomes more than just a mere book as you read it. It’s an experience. An average man, a true life man, does something extraordinary, not once, but again and again. He could have stopped once he’d led the first group of people down. He could have gone through the doors, to the street, to safety, and no one would have faulted him for it.
“They didn’t know his name,” the president told those assembled at the ceremony. “They didn’t know where he came from. But they knew their lives had been saved by the man in the red bandanna.”
As I was reading, I remembered how, as a nation, we came together. We had a common enemy and it wasn’t each other. We supported. We listened. We cared. This book reminds me of that, of that out-pouring we’ve lost, or forgotten.
Books like The Red Bandanna are needed. We must remember the good people, the heroic people like Welles Crowther, who may not stand out from the crowd on a daily basis, but show their true colors, their caring, when the moment arises.
One more thing. This isn’t just a book about 9/11. It’s a book about Welles Crowther, who just happened to be a hero on 9/11.
I may never say this again: Read this book.
I won this book in a Shelf Awareness contest.
From Amazon: The Red Bandanna
rating: (5 out of 5 butterflies)