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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



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.


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?

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