By Ann Green Greenville Online
Hurricane Sandy, the bombings at the Boston Marathon and the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center all have left their marks on Boston College’s Gavin Tisdale and his lacrosse teammates.
The Eagles rode a perfect season (13-0) into Greenville in pursuit of a national championship in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association tournament, which runs through Saturday at Wenwood Field and Sirrine Stadium. The No. 8 seed in the 16-team tournament, Boston College opened against No. 9 seed Sonoma State on Monday night. SSU beat the Eagles 14-6.
And while lots of ingredients go into any team’s success, BC’s season was fueled in part by inspiration the players drew from acts of courage and endurance sparked by the three historic events.
Tisdale, a senior captain who plays defense, got a late-night call from his parents last fall when the Fairfield, Conn., home where he grew up was heavily damaged by Sandy.
With almost 6 feet of water in the house, Tisdale knew his place was with his family. He asked if he could skip practice a few days and return to Connecticut.
He got permission, but he also learned that his teammates had volunteered for a cleanup detail later in the week.
“They showed up that Saturday caravan-style in a bunch of cars,” Tisdale said.
“The work they did was unbelievable. They ripped out carpet, drywall, sheet rock and cleaned up outside the house. They also went to two of our neighbors’ houses to help them, including an elderly couple who’d been school teachers all their lives,” Tisdale said. “Everybody jumped right in doing the hard work that nobody wants to do.”
Noted Michael Maloney, BC’s offensive coordinator, “It was a no-brainer to send the team down to try to help.”
Added Tisdale, “We really have become a band of brothers. I’m sure I’ll keep in contact with these kids, and I know that five, 10 or 20 years from now I’ll be able to call them up for a favor, and they’ll be ready to help, and I’ll be doing the same thing for them.”
Selfless service to others is a legacy bestowed on the team by Welles Crowther, a lacrosse player who graduated from BC in 1999 and inspired the story of “The Man in the Red Bandana” in 9/11 lore.
Crowther died in the World Trade Center while helping firefighters rescue people trapped in the smoke and flames and is the reason many BC players wear red bandanas or keep them tied to their equipment bags and backpacks.
Crowther was an equities trader for an investment bank on the 104th floor of 2 World Trade Center.
But he had trained as a firefighter starting in high school in Nyack, N.Y, where he joined a local fire department as a junior member. Eventually, he became a full member of the company.
Even after he had finished college and settled in New York City, he always kept a red bandanna – a gift from his father – in his back pocket, whether he was wearing jeans or expensive Wall Street suits.
After 9/11, survivors spread the word about a mysterious man wearing a red bandanna over his nose and mouth. He helped many workers to safety that day, and his remains eventually were found among a group of NYFD [sic - FDNY] firefighters, his band of brothers.
“I remember reading a New York Times article on Welles Crowther when I was a little kid and even then knowing that I want to be like that guy,” Tisdale said.
Before each season, the BC lacrosse coaches choose one player to wear No. 19, Crowther’s jersey number. They look for someone showing leadership, service and courage both on and off the field.
Tisdale currently has No. 19.
“It has been an honor to wear his jersey and to be able to meet his parents,” said Tisdale, who plans to take time off and do community service in Ecuador before he heads to law school.
Tisdale believes the Crowther legacy and his team’s pitching in to help his family and neighbors in Sandy recovery efforts played roles in the Eagles’ accomplishments this season.
“It made us bond in a way that’s very unique, right from the start, early in the year,” he said. “We’ve done some hard things. And we can look back and say, ‘Look at what we did.’ It helps people come out better on the other side.”
Heading into the Greenville tournament, the Eagles picked up unexpected support because of the tie to Boston and last month’s attacks at the marathon and the “Boston Strong” fervor unleashed.
“We’ve had a lot of support from other teams we play on the East Coast and particularly in the northeast,” Tisdale said. “They’re rooting for us and hoping we pull through.”