CLEVELAND -- Everyone has a moment that is frozen in time, and for many Americans, one of those memories is that of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and The Pentagon in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001.
For ESPN correspondent Tom Rinaldi, the attacks on 9/11 have taken on such a significant meaning that he documented the heroism of one man who worked in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, Welles Crowther, in a book, “The Red Bandanna.”
“Welles Crowther is by all accounts, really the embodiment of a hero, someone who laid down his life to help save others on one of the darkest days in our history,” Rinaldi said in an exclusive interview with WKYC.com.
Rinaldi has produced features for SportsCenter, E: 60 and SCFeatured, and one of those stories turned into the subject of his book, as Crowther, a former Boston College lacrosse player-turned-equities-trader, heroically guided people to safety out of the South Tower of the World Trade Center on that fateful September morning.
“He’s the one person President Obama mentioned by name at the dedication of the 9-11 Museum out of the nearly 3,000 souls that perished that day,” Rinaldi said. “Crowther was a Boston College athlete, a volunteer firefighter who was working on the 104th floor of the South Tower that terrible morning in September.
“His actions leading multiple groups of people to safety, and still, even though he made it down to the lobby, not leaving himself, but trying to help the FDNY really embodied the selflessness and the courage and the character that so many of us believe that America stands for, and it’s been an enormous privilege to share the story on television, and then, in a book, as well as grow close to Welles’ family, the Crowthers and the greater firefighting community that, in many ways, he’s come to represent. It’s been an enormous privilege in my life to get to know the Crowther family.”
Originally a contributor to College Gameday when he debuted with ESPN in 2002, Rinaldi has served as a sideline reporter for the Rose Bowl and National Championship games, conducted interviews and produced essays for The Masters and called play-by-play for three of tennis’ four Grand Slam tournaments, the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
By trade, Rinaldi is a sports producer, but to him, his job is about telling the stories behind the moments that people never forget.
“It’s a deeply fulfilling feeling, but where I am so fortunate is the blend and the balance that I’ve been able to find just through great fortune, good timing and people believing in me,” Rinaldi said.
“To be at a Rose Bowl game, as well as to tell the feature stories of the players involved, or to tell a story which has a sports connection, certainly in Welles’ case, but has a much, much greater meaning to the broader context of the country’s history, it really is a lottery-winning job. I’m incredibly blessed to have it.”