The red bandanas will be everywhere when Clarkstown South hosts sister school Clarkstown North Tuesday in cross country.
Forget the fact that Welles Crowther had once played against these two schools, never with either, and that he wasn’t a cross country guy.
The former Nyack lacrosse, ice hockey and soccer player has become part of them, part of the Rockland story, part of America’s story.
His number 19 ice hockey jersey hangs inside Nyack High School.
So does Stacey Sennas McGowan’s number 48 lacrosse jersey.
The two, separated in high school by 14 years, were united on September 11, 2001 when they died in the South Tower’s collapse.
Now they are being united again, chosen along with 11 other people, as members of Nyack High School’s first class in its new Athletics Hall of Fame.
Crowther, from Nyack’s class of 1995 and Sennas McGowan, from its class of 1981, have been selected under the banner community service, along with Class of ’45 alum Jim Kane, a 70-year official and officials’ coordinator in multiple sports.
The Hall of Fame group of 13 will be honored during a dinner and induction ceremony Thursday at Patriot Hills Golf Club in Stony Point.
Nyack Athletic Director Joe Sigillo says Crowther’s and Sennas McGowarn’s impact is continuing.
“They both mean so much to the current athletes and to the students in general,” he said. “They’re a great teaching tool. Welles, obviously, has meant so much to the country, his self-sacrifice. Stacey had a great spirit. Everybody remembers she tried her best. She was a role model for hard work and dedication.”
Multiple local schools and even schools across the country show the ESPN film about Crowther.
He carried a a red bandanna since childhood. And on the day planes struck the Twin Towers, he put it on to fight the smoke so that he could lead fellow South Tower workers to safety. He made multiple trips downstairs with people before the tower collapsed on him.
And so Tuesday the two cross-country teams will honor him in a ceremony before both compete with all of the kids wearing a red bandanna in his honor, Clarkstown South coach Ray Kondracki said. The event will be akin to Boston College’s Welles Remy Crowther Red Bandanna Run, an annual 5K that’s different only in that anyone may run that race.
Crowther, who led the section in scoring in ice hockey is senior year at Nyack, played lacrosse for BC, as did Sennas McGowan. Both were team captains there.
.Sennas McGowan was also a pioneer of sorts. While, with the exception of a few hot pockets, like Yorktown, boys lacrosse was still in its infancy in the 1970s, girls lacrosse was almost unheard of locally.
But Nyack launched its girls a team in 1978 and Sennas McGowan was on it. The next year she was voted its most improved player. By her senior year in 1981, she was Nyack’s captain and top scorer with 18 goals, nine assists.
This was an era in which sometimes the team couldn’t get a bus to its games and parents had to drive.
Her friend since fifth grade, Nyack resident Laura Graham is president of the memorial foundation that bears her name. It provides scholarships to Nyack lacrosse players and generally supports the girls’ game. Nyack hosts a game in her honor each year under the lights and often the day/night features a youth game and/or alumni game, as well.
The game represents the “continuation of her legacy,” Graham said.
But as good an athlete as Sennas McGowan was, Graham recalls her personality as being even better.
“She was sort of the best of the best,” she said. “She was class president. She was super smart but very, very easygoing about it. She was funny and had tons and tons of friends. … She was just kind of a light. She was the kind of person who lit up your day.”
Clarkstown South social studies teacher Dave Moreno was Crowther’s ice hockey coach at Nyack. He wasn’t surprised when he heard that Crowther had been identified as the guy who had organized people to escape the South Tower, helping many down multiple flights. “When I heard that I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s him. That’s what Welles would have done,’ ” he said.
Every year, Moreno attends a Red Bandanna ice hockey game that features mostly Nyack alumni players. A youth game is held in conjunction with it.
Kids are told about a selfless man, who, on the ice, was a selfless player.
“As a player, he was a kid who if I gave assignment to he would do it. He was always on the goal-scoring line, a good playmaker. But he would sacrifice. He would give up an opportunity to score to prevent a kid from scoring and follow him around all game,” Moreno recalled.
At Clarkstown South, kids watch the ESPN video about him every September 11. Crowther died helping others. Moreno wants kids to think about helping others in a less dire way.
“He was an ordinary person — just a kid like them, who had goodness in him,” Moreno said. “When it comes down to it, ti’s a random act kindness kind of thing. We all have it in us.”
And so Crowther and Sennas McGowan, who was married with two young children at the time of her death, are remembered in multiple ways.
But the Hall of Fame, Graham said, seems especially special.
“It’s very special to be in the first class,” Graham said of Sennas McGowan. “She would have been blown away by it. She was always so humble. She would have said, ‘What about this person or that person (for the Hall’)?”
It would seem that she and Crowther had more in common than just Nyack and Boston College sports.