The Higher Self


9/11 is a stand-alone word. Technically it’s not even a word and grammatically it’s a hot mess, but no one misinterprets its meaning; the day nearly 3,000 people were viciously murdered by terrorists as the Twin Towers came toppling down. Today of course marks the 15 year anniversary.

My original thought was to do a reblog from last year that focused on what to me signified the most horrific part of that awful day; the jumpers who faced the impossible choice of whether to die from extreme heat and smoke exposure while their skin melted away, or jumping to certain death thousands of feet below.

Thinking about this now brings up raw emotions; thirst for justice for the dead, sadness for their loved ones and extreme frustration that our leadership seems intent on making the same mistakes that made this possible and a new attack imminent.

Time has softened the edges a bit though and while it’s still important to “never forget”, the words courage and love seem more relevant over hate and anger. Perhaps the ugly partisanship of a particularly divisive and bitter election year has gotten to me, but I think remembering the few spots of good from that awful day offers a better way.

An excellent place to start is Peggy Noonan’s recent Wall street Journal column on the incredible story of Welles Crowther, *Remembering a hero 15 Years After 9/11.

As Noonan writes,

Welles was beloved—bright, joyous, grounded. Family was everything to him. He idolized his father, Jefferson, a banker and volunteer fireman. They went to the firehouse together when Welles was a child. Welles would clean the trucks, getting in close where no one else could fit. One Sunday when Welles was 7 or 8 his mother dressed him for church in his first suit. His father had a white handkerchief in his breast pocket. Could he have one? Jefferson put one in Welles’s front pocket and then took a colored one and put it in Welles’s back pocket. One’s for show, he said, the other’s for blow.

 He carried a red bandanna all his life.” It was a talisman but practical, too. It could clean up a mess. When he’d take it from his pocket at Sandler O’Neill they’d tease him. What are you, a farmer. He’d tease back: “With this bandanna I’m gonna change the world.”

 As Welles went down the stairwell he saw what happened on the 78th floor sky lobby. People trying to escape had been waiting for elevators when the plane hit. It was carnage—fire, smoke, bodies everywhere. A woman named Ling Young, a worker for the state tax department, sat on the floor, badly burned and in shock. From out of the murk she heard a man’s voice: “I found the stairs. Follow me.”

 Apparently Welles kept leading people down from the top floors to the lower ones, where they could make their way out. Then he’d go up to find more. No one knows how many. The fire department credits him with five saved lives.

 They found him six months later, in the lobby of the south tower. He’d made it all the way down. He was found in an area with many firefighters’ remains. It had been the FDNY command post. It was where assistant fire chief Donald Burns was found. He and his men had probably helped evacuate thousands. Welles could have left and saved his own life—they all could have. But they’d all stayed.

 The Crowthers never knew what he’d done until Memorial Day weekend 2002. The New York Times carried a minute-by-minute report of what happened in the towers after the planes hit. Near the end it said: “A mysterious man appeared at one point, his mouth and nose covered with a red handkerchief.” It mentioned Ms. Young and Ms. Wein. The Crowthers sent them pictures of Welles.

 That was him, they said. Ms. Wein had seen his face when he took the bandanna from his face as the air cleared on the lower floors. Ms. Young said: “He saved my life.”

 Welles Crowthers represented the best of who we are; selfless, brave, instilled with a need to protect others. There were many like him there that bright September morning the world came crashing down, too many who like Welles never made it home so that others could live.

The question is why? Where does this courage and sense of duty to put others first come from? Noonan puts it best:

“The way I see it….courage comes from love. There’s a big unseen current of love that hums through the world, and some plug into it more than others, more deeply and surely, and they get more power from it. And it fills them with courage. It makes everything possible.

 People see the fallen, beat-up world around them and ask: What can I do? Maybe: Be like Welles Crowther. Take your bandanna, change the world”.

 Yup. Seems simple enough, no?

*To get behind the WSJ pay wall and view Noonan’s column in full, google the title, “Remembering a Hero 15 Years After 9/11”.







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20 Responses to The Higher Self

  1. Canuck Carl says:

    Wow, this is a tremendous tribute to a man who could have lived but sacrificed his life to save others.

    Thank you for sharing this Tricia.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great story to share. It reminds us just how precious life is and the willingness of some to sacrifice it for the sake of others.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Al says:

    It’s stories like these that give hope for us all. The politicians and candidates can bluster all they want about how much they “care”, but these are the people that walk the walk. I’m reminded of two other heroes of several years ago, Arland Williams and Lenny Skutnik. You can read about them here Would the rest of us meet this standard of bravery if called upon? I wonder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tricia says:

      They do provide hope, don’t they Al! While the politicians use today as a photo pop we can remember these fine people and strive to be like them. Great story you linked too, thanks for sharing.


  4. Dennis says:

    Unbeknownst to a vast majority of people there are thousands of men and women just like Welles living their lives among us and doing “heroic” things everyday.
    It’s only when their actions are highlighted by the written press or television that most of us are made aware of them and their deeds.
    We are always informed of the horrible deeds of a few because that sells newspapers and increases viewership for TV which translates to more ad sales.
    I would venture to say that heroes do not perform heroic acts for self gratification or acclimation by the public but, rather as an inherent response to a situation in which they see their path to either correct the situation or help others to get out of the situation. That is why you so often read the statement, “He/She never hesitated but just reacted”. No weighing pros and cons and what will I get out of this? No, just get in there and do the right thing.
    John Kerry is a perfect example of a person who weighed the pros and cons before he acted while in Viet Nam. If you remember the “Swift boating” information you will remember that as the Captain of a swift boat he was always the last boat to engage and the first one to leave the firefight. He was the first one to report to sickbay and claim injuries received in battle and get himself put up for medals. Medals which he later threw over the White House fence in protest of the war. Only he threw his ribbons over not his medals. Ribbons are easier and cheaper to purchase then medals! All of this was done to set himself up for a political career. How many died rushing into battle without a thought of their “career” while Kerry hesitated? Very few politicians are true “heroes” in any sense of the word.
    Remember the Heroes everyday and look around for those who perform heroic deeds with no recognition or self promotion. These are the “True Heroes” like Welles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tricia says:

      I so agree Dennis that every day life offers unseen heroes doing the dirty work of helping others when no one else will. When tragedy strikes it’s these people that really shine as their calling comes full circle. As to the likes of John Kerry, well, it is tough for me to think about him on a day like today so I’m not going to. 😉


  5. Well said,Tricia. It was a tragic event with so much loss and grief and yet there are these beautiful stories of heroism and love, and of a united country that knows how to place our eyes on Someone higher than ourselves.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. ColorStorm says:

    Love the bandana guy T.

    Good stuff btw Certainly worth remembering, and even moreso, not to forget..

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Citizen Tom says:

    Reblogged this on Citizen Tom and commented:
    My 9/11 post was about Matthew 5:4. I had finished writing and posting before I realized it was appropriate to the day.

    Tricia’s post was more traditional, and I suppose it was more appropriate. She reminded us of our loss, of one of the people we mourn.

    In this life we are born into sin. We may feel innocent. We may look upon children as innocent, but we are not born innocent. We are born wanting to be loved, demanding that others love us. That insistence that others must love us is ultimately a prideful, selfish thing.

    Consider the hero in Tricia’s story. He gave his life for strangers. Was Welles Crowther a perfect man? Were his motives completely unselfish? Not likely. None of us are perfect. Nevertheless, he made the choice that matters most. Whether they cared about him or not, he decided to care about other people, his neighbors. Like our Lord, He chose to love as unselfishly.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. You can read Peggy Noonan’s columns for free on The Patriot Post website — easier than trying to get around WSJ’s paywall. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for sharing this story Tricia. Sometimes we need reminders that even in the darkest times, there are heroes among us.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Running Into 2017. – theoldfellowgoesrunning

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