COLUMN: Honoring The Memory Of A True Leader
Published: Thursday, September 19, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 19, 2013 19:09
When the word “leadership” is used too loosely in sports, its meaning becomes fleeting.
Those three syllables form the foundations upon which legends are built, legacies are forged, and press conference sound bites resonate.
Coaches will claim that a squad only goes as far as its senior leadership takes them. A lost season is blamed for a lack of leadership at the helm. Ask any veteran team captain about his most important role on the field, and he’ll give one word—leader.
Yet leadership’s worth is not as a trite buzzword used to praise, boast, or blame. True heroes don’t emerge on the coattails of an overused expression.
They personify the inner core of its truest definition.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 Boston College lacrosse alum Welles Crowther went to work on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower unknowing of the events that would shape his destiny.
The challenge he met was no overtime duel or championship game, but the darkest day in American history. Just as he had done on the lacrosse field at BC and throughout his young life, Crowther confronted adversity head-on and leapt into action. Rather than take the easy way out to preserve his own life, he courageously remained in harm’s way, guiding his injured and desperate colleagues to safety. Crowther provided a clear and calming voice when order was ablaze in a fiery anarchy.
Crowther acted as a leader.
A former Eagle—the “Man in the Red Bandana”—acted as a guardian angel for countless lives, and paid the ultimate price by losing his own at age 24.
Crowther’s heroism lives on like a legend, as the story of his actions on 9/11 have been celebrated by ESPN’s Outside the Lines and tributes on BC’s campus—a football stadium full of Superfans wearing red bandanas in his honor and an annual charity run set to take place a month from today.
These acts of appreciation are entirely appropriate and incredibly admirable ways to celebrate a leader of Crowther’s stature. For that, I salute them and all they stand for.
But we cannot end the tribute there.
Judging by the man’s actions on that dark day and the way in which he lived, Crowther would not have sought a statue outside of Alumni or a banner hanging from the rafters of Conte. It wouldn’t do justice to the example of leadership and selflessness he set.
To try and guess how Crowther would’ve wanted us to embrace his actions would be mere conjecture. Yet we can express our gratitude for him through the way we live our own lives, putting a greater cause above ourselves and bringing light to the darkness by leading the way.
Every time we stand up when no one else is willing to, lend a hand when one is in need, and do something because it is the right thing to do, we effectively fight the good fight. In doing so, BC can bring a verse from its fight song to life—“For here all are one.”
And every step of the way, Welles Crowther will live on through us all.