Welles Crowther was working on the 104th floor of the South Tower on the morning of September 11, 2001 when the plane hit. Crowther, with a red bandanna covering his mouth and nose to protect him from the smoke, sprang into action. He is directly responsible for saving the lives of at least 18 people.
The fact that he made it out of the inferno three times when so many didn’t make it out at all is remarkable enough. But that he went back three times to help others is the epitome of heroism. Six months after the South Tower collapsed, the body of this hero was finally recovered.
Courage? Crowther was the very embodiment of it. But I want to focus on another virtue he displayed that day: prudence.
Prudence is about putting “first things first”; it is the virtue that guides sound judgment. Some might quietly and respectfully question the “sound judgment” of a man who would go back into a collapsing sky scraper three times. But prudence isn’t about playing it safe. We’re talking about virtue here, not the basic rules of accounting.
Crises don’t make or break people, they reveal people. And long before September 11, Crowther was figuring out what it meant to make good decisions, judgments that were based on more than just emotion, and ease, and self; in the home, in the classroom, on the athletic field and eventually as an investment banker.
In the last hour of his life, Welles Crowther made the sound judgment that saving lives was what he was supposed to do…first things first. Not because he had to, but because he could.
Welles Crowther is a hero you should know. And I’m Dr. Ross Porter.