The Red Bandanna by Tom Rinaldi

America changed on September 11th, 2001. While it is a crucial and important time in the history of the country, teachers often struggle on how to broach the subject with their students in a sensitive, age appropriate manner. One way to talk to children about September 11th is to focus on all of the amazing people who risked or sacrificed their lives to save others. Share the stories of inspiration, bravery, and heroism. Focus on remembering those who lost their lives and making sure that their stories are never forgotten.

The young adult version of The Red Bandanna by Tom Rinaldi does just that; it is the beautiful and emotional true story of a young man named Welles Crowther, a regular 24 year old young man whose name and acts of heroism will be remembered for many years to come.

Student Activities for The Red Bandanna

Essential Questions for The Red Bandanna

  1. Why was Welles Crowther a hero?
  2. How did September 11th change America?
  3. What makes someone a hero?
  4. Why is it important to continue to talk about 9/11, even though it is a difficult topic?

The Red Bandanna Summary

Welles Crowther was born on May 17th, 1977 in New York City. The eldest of three children, and the only son, Welles was always curious about the red bandanna that his father would carry with him at all times. When Welles was six years old, his father gave him a red bandanna of his own, which Welles would become known for carrying as he got older. For as long as anyone could remember, Welles dreamed of becoming a firefighter and helping people, and became a volunteer firefighter at the young age of 16 years old. Although he was not large in stature, his determination and heart were immeasurable.

After graduating from Boston College in 1999 with a degree in economics, Welles joined the investment banking firm of Sandler O’Neill and Partners, located on the 104th floor of 2 World Trade Center in New York City. He began and excelled in the research field, and quickly moved up to become an equities trader. Welles was kind, friendly, personable, and smart. He had great promise in the firm and was sought after, but in his heart, he was a firefighter. Welles had plans to work hard and save his money as a trader so that he’d be financially stable when he decided to make the move; he knew in his heart it was the right choice.

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Welles Crowther was no longer a trader. He was what he was born to become; he was a firefighter. Through the accounts of family members, friends, colleagues, and a few of the people that he saved, who initially only knew him as “the man in the red bandanna”, The Red Bandanna gives readers an up close and personal look at Welles Crowther, the 24 year old man who gave his life to save the lives of others.

Reading and discussing the young adult version of The Red Bandanna as a class will bring students and teachers together, while also educating students on the facts about what happened on that September morning in 2001. Welles Crowther’s story, like so many others of heroism and bravery, will never be forgotten, and while it is true that not all heroes wear capes, sometimes they just might wear a red bandanna.

This book is also available in both an adult edition called The Red Bandanna: A Life. A Choice. A Legacy., also written by Tom Rinaldi, and a picture book for young children called The Man in the Red Bandanna written by Welles Crowther’s sister, Hope Crowther Fagan.

How To Facilitate a Discussion on Heroism and Bravery in Class


Discuss Heroism and Bravery

Begin the discussion by asking what heroism and bravery are and why they are important. Teachers can ask the students what comes to their minds when they hear these specific words and if there are any stories, instances, or general information they would like to share with the rest of the class.


Talk About Favorite Heroes

After building the discussion on these topics, ask the students about their favorite heroes. Give each student a chance to talk about their hero and why this person or character is important to them. Once all the students are done, teachers can draw out some common traits that were possessed by each hero named by the student. For instance, bravery, passion, and good moral judgment are some common characteristics that can be found in any hero.


Discuss the Positive and Negative Sides

Encourage the students to consider the effects of heroism, both good and bad, as you talk about consequences and impact. Discuss the potential effects of these activities on people, communities, and society at large. Teachers can take some examples from the fictional world as well as the real world to explain how in order to gain something, the hero always has to sacrifice something.


Give an Activity

After students have found a new perspective, ask them to prepare a critical analysis or a theme chart on their favorite hero to expose the other side of heroism and bravery. They can make drawings of their favorite characters and use art in different ways to express their opinions.


Reflect and Synthesize

After the conversation, ask the students to list the major themes and takeaways. Encourage students to think back on what they've studied and consider how their ideas of bravery may have changed.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Red Bandanna

Who was Welles Crowther?

Welles Crowther was a young man who worked for a banking firm on the 104th floor of 2 World Trade Center. He is known for being a hero and saving many lives before losing his own on September 11, 2001.

What does the red bandanna symbolize?

Welles Crowther wore a red bandanna all of the time, and was wearing it on his face to keep from breathing in smoke on 9/11. Many people recall a man wearing a red bandanna as the person who led them to safety, but they did not know his name. Because of this, his red bandanna is a symbol of courage.

Is The Red Bandanna a true story?

Yes, The Red Bandanna is a true story about Welles Crowther and the lives he saved on 9/11.

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