The Red Bandanna Summary & Study Guide
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 34-page guide for “The Red Bandanna” by Tom Rinaldi includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 3 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like How to Make a Hero and How to Behave as a Hero.
Published in 2016, the New York Times bestseller The Red Bandanna, by Tom Rinaldi, tells a tale of heroism during 9/11. Its pages detail a heartwarming and heartbreaking story of one man’s journey from youth to his last few hours, when, at the cost of his own life, he rescues many people from the World Trade Center attack. Rinaldi, a journalist, sports reporter, and producer at ESPN, wrote the book after working on a film documentary about Welles.
The Red Bandanna is arranged into three chapters, each tackling a different part of the life of the hero, Welles Crowther. Chapter 1 describes Welles’s upbringing; Chapter 2 details what he does on 9/11; Chapter 3 presents the efforts of his family and others to honor Welles’s heroism and his memory.
Chapter 1 describes Welles’s typical suburban-American childhood in upstate New York, filled with sports, friends, and school. His father, Jeff, is a volunteer fireman; from a young age, Welles haunts the firehouse, helping out where he can. Jeff gives his son a red handkerchief, which Welles thereafter always keeps with him. Always a bit short for his age, Welles makes up for his small stature by working harder and smarter. He becomes a team leader in hockey and lacrosse. In high school, he joins the fire company as a fully trained member. Above all, Rinaldi presents Welles’s character as full of cheerful energy and helpfulness.
Welles attends prestigious Boston College, where he studies business and plays varsity lacrosse. After graduation, he takes a job with investment firm Sandler O’Neill, working at their New York offices on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Despite his successful career track, Welles yearns to be a full-time fireman.
Chapter 2 describes the horrific events of the attack on the World Trade Center and how Welles methodically saves a number of people from the burning 78th floor of the South Tower. However, Welles himself does not make it out of the tower before it collapses. Unaware of Welles’s heroic acts, his loved ones arrange a memorial service at his home church; unexpectedly, a thousand mourners attend.
Chapter 3 follows Welles’s mother, Alison Crowther, and others as they search for closure after Welles’s death. Welles’s remains are eventually located next to bodies of New York City Fire Department (FDNY) firemen and finally laid to rest. Stories begin to crop up in the media of survivors who recall a mysterious man with a red bandanna who helped rescue many people from the upper floors of the South Tower. Welles’s parents locate the witnesses and confirm their stories. They realize that Welles has died doing what he loved; he helped others while giving little thought to his own safety.
The Crowthers launch a charity, using Welles’s example, encouraging good character and citizenship. People begin wearing red bandannas, especially during sports events. A short documentary feature about Welles helps spread the story. At Boston College, a sea of bandanna-waving fans cheer the school’s football team as it comes from behind to defeat nationally ranked University of Southern California. At the dedication of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, President Obama singles out Welles for his sacrifice.