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Why We Need the Story of the Man in the Red Bandana

The Rockland 9/11 Memorial at Haverstraw Bay Park includes the names of 81 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including Nyacker Welles Crowther, now known as the Man with the Red Bandana. (Photo from the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office)

This week in the Villages: A look at why we need shared stories like the “man in the red bandana” in order to make sense of senseless tragedies. Plus, your weekly weather prediction, Covid updates, upcoming meetings and much more!

Note to readers: What do you think we should be covering in your village? Send us stories, ideas, pictures and feedback at Read about our plans for the future here.

The Power of Stories and Names

Welcome back to The Villages, our eagle’s eye look at what’s happening within the towns, hamlets, districts, communities, groups, factions, people, and, of course, villages, around Nyack, New York.

The village of Nyack is our home base, but we aim to “cover” as much of the surrounding area and Rockland County as we can.

This week, we wanted to take a minute to remember local victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that seared a date and tragedy into our collective memories.

But what does “local” mean in the case of such a colossal tragedy? Can a locale claim a certain amount of damage or figure out a way to quantify our collective pain?

When I think about 9/11, honestly, I often think about numbers.

I imagine that’s partly because we refer to the atrocity of that day with three numerals, partly because I, personally, didn’t know anyone who died on 9/11, and partly because quantifying is often how we humans attempt to make sense of things we don’t understand.

While watching coverage of the attacks on television that day, I remember hearing estimates that some 10,000 people were feared dead after the Twin Towers collapsed.

It turned out, those early estimates were slightly overblown. In fact, it’s true that most people in the Twin Towers escaped with their lives.

Nonetheless, the death totals remain devastating to behold.

Nearly 3,000 people, who left behind countless loved ones all over the world, died on September 11, 2001. Thousands more deaths have been attributed to the after-effects.

As we focus our lens locally, the numbers of dead diminish.

A couple of years ago, Patch did their best to capture the names of some 200-plus 9/11 victims who had “ties to the lower Hudson.”

Drilling down further, the Rockland 9/11 Memorial in Haverstraw lists 81 names of people with ties to the county who died on 9/11, as well as one other name, Robert Kirkpatrick of Suffern, who died in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Every year, at Haverstraw Bay Park, there is a ceremony where the names of all 82 names listed on the memorial’s wall are read out loud. Usually, it’s covered by the media. (Thanks, LoHud!)

Reading and hearing those names is important.

This morning, I (accidentally) tuned in to the official nationally televised 9/11 memorial ceremony held at the site of the attacks, which is now the site of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

I couldn’t help but stay, watching, transfixed, as relatives of victims would read off a chunk of names and then pause to talk about their loss. They talked about what it meant to them and, perhaps, the world.

The proceeding gave me ideas and unexplored perspectives and a couple of well-earned tears.

I realized, once again, that it’s names and people and memories — not numbers — that are important, especially when remembering tragedies.

If you go to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum page, which has an absolute treasure trove of information, you can type in locations and find the names of people tied to your local area.

When you type in “Nyack”, you’ll discover the name Jon Leslie Alpert, and see that he was an Upper Nyack resident working at the Towers who died at the age of 46. Alpert’s co-worker at Marsh and McLennan, 41-year-old Janet Marie Alonso, was another Nyack who didn’t make it home and left behind loved ones on 9/11.

You’ll also find a page for Thomas Foley, a strikingly handsome 22-year-old first responder who lived in Central Nyack and died trying to help people survive the attack.

A picture of 9/11 victim Stacey Sennas McGowan, a native Nyacker who’s life ended that day at the age of 38, shows her smiling and full of life.

McGowan’s younger co-worker at the investment banking firm Sandler O’Neil and Partners was Welles Remy Crowther.

Most people remember Crowther — the Upper Nyack-born volunteer firefighter whose legendary bravery in the face of certain death, made him one of the great heroes of 9/11 — as the “Man in the Red Bandana.”

Countless stories were written and documentary called, fittingly, “Man in the Red Bandana” came out five years ago and it is stunningly powerful. (If you haven’t, please check it out below!)

Honestly, I didn’t know the name Welles Crowther until I started researching for this piece.

But I knew his story, even before watching the documentary, because my daughter learned about it at Upper Nyack elementary school where Welles learned how to read and socialize as a boy.

Everyone in Nyack is encouraged to wear a red bandana on 9/11. I saw several today while out and about.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Crowther was a star student-athlete at Nyack High School who went on to play high-level lacrosse at Boston College and then earned a position at a prestigious Manhattan investment firm soon after graduating.

Welles Remy Crowther with his mother Allison Crowther.

During the chaos of 9/11 after a plane had struck the South Tower where he worked, Welles, a volunteer firefighter, found a rare working stairwell.

Instead of following the stairs down to safety, he strapped on his red bandana and continued going back to help people escape until the building collapsed. He’s credited with directly saving at least 10 people that day.

The story of the man with the red bandana brings this specific community together. We share this story and we say as many names as we need to.

In this way, we can somehow look back at a tragedy and forward to a better future at the same time — with a sense of hope.

In this way, we can make sense of the senseless.

Always remember. And stay tuned …

Quote of the Week

“I found the stairs. Follow me. Only help the ones you can help.”

Welles Crowther, the “Man in the Red Bandana”, to several of his co-workers in the South Tower who he led to safety on 9/11 before the building collapsed.

In other relevant news

  • Two weeks ago, we reported on the redistricting effort underway at the Rockland County legislature. There have been a couple of meetings since then and perhaps a vote, but we haven’t been able to find an actual copy of the map.
  • Here’s a link to the entire redistricting meeting held on Aug. 30.
  • Speaking of first responders, LoHud reports that the mother of Jared Lloyd, the Spring Valley firefighter and father who died while trying to save people trapped inside a burning nursing home, is filing wrongful death lawsuits against “Spring Valley officials, two rabbis charged criminally with causing the fatal 2021 fire, and the owners of the Evergreen Court Home for Adults.”
  • If you haven’t read it yet, please check our vision for the future of Nyack News & Views and how you can help build our coverage and capacity.

ICYM our regular features: Bill Batson’s latest “Nyack Sketch Log”, Mike Hays’ most recent “Nyack People & Places”; and our coverage in last week’s “The Villages”.

Weather prediction

Looks like clouds and rain through Tuesday and then mostly clear skies through the end of the week and into the weekend. [National Weather Service]

Covid Update (as of Sept. 6)

Severe cases and hospitalizations in the greater Nyack area have leveled off. As of September 6, the CDC is now classifying Rockland County at a “low” Covid threat level. 

Testing Info

  • More than 81.9% of eligible people in Rockland County are vaccinated with at least one dose. To schedule an appointment for a 1st dose, 3rd dose (for immunocompromised), or booster COVID-19 vaccine from any Rockland County Department of Health Clinic visit To search for additional COVID-19 vaccination opportunities nearby visit
  • Find a COVID-19 testing site near you, by visiting Individuals who have questions regarding eligibility or access for testing should call the New York State COVID-19 Hotline at 1-888-364-3065 or visit the NYSDOH website

Village updates


  • Drop off humanitarian aid for victims of the war in Ukraine (, including first aid, painkillers, blankets, baby food, diapers, non-perishable food, antibiotics and more, at Village Hall, 9 N. Broadway (or at the Orangetown town hall, 26 W. Orangeburg Rd.).

Upper Nyack

South Nyack

  • Due to reader request, we have re-added South Nyack, which dissolved as an official village earlier this year. Please send us info about what’s going on in South Nyack at



  • The Technical Advisory Committee, which “evaluates the technical adequacy of land development applications and decides their readiness for Planning Board review,” meets most Wednesdays, including Wednesday 8/24, from 10 am to noon, in the town hall’s Historic Map Room.
  • For a calendar list of all Clarkstown meetings and events, click here.

Other Local Updates

South Nyack advocates have filed a petition with the town of Orangetown seeking to show support for a new Elizabeth Place Playground — the grassy play area and dog park just south of 87 and right off the Esposito trail. After South Nyack dissolved in March, the town found the playground equipment at Elizabeth Place was unsafe and not compliant with ADA regulations and removed it. A new ADA compliant park has been proposed and advocates want to see the proposal approved and implemented. Click here to read and/or sign the petition.

Nyack Schools

  • Masks are currently optional for all students and staff in all Nyack district schools.


A rare polio case was recently discovered in Rockland County. Here’s some info on how to protect yourself:

  • New Yorkers can pre-register for a free polio vaccination appointment here or call 845-238-1956 to schedule. Walk-ins will also be accepted.
  • Vaccines are also available through local healthcare providers, including Federally Qualified Health Centers.
  • For more information on polio including symptoms and spread, visit NYSDOH’s page here.
  • New Yorkers can learn more about the polio vaccine available in the U.S. at CDC’s page here.
  • The Reviving Rockland Restaurants Grant Program will reimburse businesses between $5,000 and $25,000 for past expenses or fund future expenses for eligible outdoor dining COVID-19 mitigation equipment. Eligible entities include restaurants, food stands, food trucks, bars, saloons, lounges, taverns, bakeries, delis, cafes, breweries, wineries, and other similar places of business. For more information and to download an application visit
  • Fill out this survey to help the county provide better digital services.

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