In the aftermath of 9/11, when nothing seemed to make sense, one Napa couple found their own personal connection to one of the victims.
Celia and Mark Brown are Corvette club members and decided that "we wanted to do something for someone who had a Corvette who was killed" in the attacks, Celia Brown said Tuesday.
They discovered that firefighter Brian Bilcher, Squad 1 FDNY, had been a devoted Corvette driver and member of the Richmond County Corvette Club in Staten Island, N.Y.
"He was in one of the first units going in when the first tower crumbled," Brown said, pausing for a moment to blink back tears.
The Browns contacted Bilcher's widow Tina, who was left with the couple's 9-month-old son when her husband was killed days before their second wedding anniversary.
The Napa couple told her they wanted to endow a memorial brick for Bilcher, "with his name and his Corvette: the year the color and everything," Brown said, at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., where scores of other 'vette drivers are remembered with engraved paving stones.
Tina Bilcher approved the plan, Brown said, and the Napa couple were able to see the brick in place on a subsequent trip to the museum.
"It was really emotional," Brown said, adding that she and her husband have stayed in touch with Tina, who has since remarried and has a second son.
"She seems to be doing well," Brown said. "We will email her tonight as we do every year, to tell her she's in our thoughts."
On the 11th anniversary of the attacks, the Browns drove their red Corvette to Gordon Huether's Hay Barn Studio on Monticello Road to see the glass panels Huether has created for the city's .
But although the names of all the 9/11 dead are to be displayed when the memorial is installed at its Main Street location by Napa Creek, the artwork shown Tuesday at Huether's studio was partly wrapped in paper and protected by wood framing that concealed many names from view, including Bilcher's.
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