A white Corvette that was transformed into an American flag on four wheels and has become a tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks has been Media’s patriotic symbol for 10 years.
Just days following the attacks on our country Mike Boettcher, of Upper Providence, was approached by then Congressman Curt Weldon to participate in what Weldon said would be the biggest patriotic parade Delaware County had ever seen.
Weldon knew Boettcher, who had retired from the Department of Justice in 1999, was into cars and particularly Corvettes so he asked if Boettcher would include his Corvette in the parade planned for October.
Boettcher said he had decorated his white, 1987 Corvette a few times by laying an American flag on the hood but he knew for this parade he had to go bigger.
So he looked into painting the car but wasn’t ready to fully commit to changing the look of his car. He talked to people at the Crayola Company and got liquid paint, much like finger paint for kids, to paint his entire car in the stars and stripes. The paint didn’t stain and it would wash off.
He took measurements and taped everything off in order to fit all 13 stripes and all 52 stars.
The new car was born on Sept. 19, 2001, just eight days after 9/11.
When Boettcher, who is married with three children and three grandchildren, rolled into the parade that October he had no idea the response the car would receive and continues to receive today.
"I never imaged how big it would get," he said.
Boettcher’s Corvette led that October 2001 Support America Parade that ran throughout Delaware County and the car has been in countless parades since, carried both military and Hollywood stars and traveled around the country.
"Before we were home (from the October parade), all the townships were calling wanting it in their parades and to take pictures with it," he said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen."
Boettcher’s Corvette has received awards, carried former Governor Tom Ridge, former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, five Medal of Honor recipients, the captain of the Tuskegee Airmen when he was honored in Media, Ed McMahon, Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops, Sally Starr, Chief Halftown, Philly Phanatic, Eagles Swoop, Tug McGraw, Harry Kalas, the writer of Band of Brothers and the last survivor of Pearl Harbor.
This year Boettcher’s Corvette will either be at Ground Zero or in Rose Tree Park on Sept. 11. He was asked to bring the car to New York but is waiting to hear if the Ground Zero ceremony is elected to be a private ceremony for the families of the victims.
A few months after that first October parade, Boettcher knew he couldn’t continue with the wash-off paint. He was consistently touching it up and always keeping the car in his garage.
"I had to make a decision," he said. "Either do it for real or wash it off."
So the wash-off paint became permanent paint and Boettcher continues to make changes and additions to it.
Over the years, Boettcher had gotten all the people who were carried in the car to sign the back deck but when it was time to freshen the car’s paint Boettcher had to decide what to do about the signatures and the back deck of the car.
He took a photo of the signatures and then stripped the paint down and considered what to do.
Boettcher, who was appointed a charter member of the Department of Homeland Security, had started doing 9/11 memorial presentations for different Rotary Clubs and organizations as a tribute to the victims. The presentation shows photos of the terrorist attacks set to music and gives little known facts about the attacks and clean up efforts but it also shows photos of the victims.
That’s when it occurred to Boettcher that the new back deck of the Corvette should somehow include all of the victim’s faces.
So he sat down with Photoshop and was able to compile a layering affect of the New York City skyline with beams of light where the Twin Towers once stood but layered over the image is each individual face of the victims who died in New York City on Sept. 11.
He created the large image on the computer and sent it off to become a car decal and there was the new back deck of the car. (See the attached photo).
"If you look at it you see the skyline and there’s something else there," Boettcher said. "And then the faces come forward."
Only the New York City victims are on the back deck of the Corvette but Boettcher said he plans to put the Pentagon victims on one door and then the Pennsylvania victims on the other door in the same fashion with the background of the scene and then the victim’s faces. But it will take time to make it look perfect and worthy of the victims.
"I just got to get it right in my head first," he said.
Raising Money for Charities
The Corvette has also been commemorated by the Franklin Mint and raised money for the 9/11 Survivor’s Fund and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Corvettes for Kids contacted Boettcher soon after that first parade to ask if he’d be interested in getting involved with the charity that donates to children’s medical bills at CHOP. Of course Boettcher got involved and posters were created and a billboard of his car stood on Route 422 for about a year, he said.
"That was one of the reasons I decided to make (the paint) permanent," Boettcher said.
The Franklin Mint "allegedly" used his car to create a model American flag Corvette. The model was a 1967 Corvette but it was painted exactly like Boettcher’s car.
When friend’s saw another billboard near the Franklin Mint on Route 1 with what looked a lot like a replica of Boettcher’s car, they all agreed it had to have been modeled after his own car.
"Everyone called me and said, 'Mike, that is your car,'" he said.
Boettcher said he "confirmed" with the Franklin Mint that they did use his car to model their own but no one came right out and said it. They gave him one of the models though.
"I didn’t care they did it because part of the money went to the 9/11 Survivors Fund," he said. "If it spurred donations I couldn’t care less. I never did it for the credit. I wanted to do it in honor of the victims of 9/11."
They Just Went to Work
Boettcher, who was with the Air Force Rangers for a short period of time before being recruited to the Justice Department, said if he were younger he would have reenlisted after the attacks on our country.
"I was too old to sign up to do anything so I did what I could," he said.
Boettcher volunteered to help with the search and rescue after the attacks although he was not called upon but he helped with the evidence investigation following the attacks.
"I wanted to be involved somehow because to me it was one of the most horrific acts of violence man could do against man. War is different," he said. "But when they acted against innocent people. Those people didn’t invade your country. Those people didn’t disrespect your religion. All they did was go to work. That’s all they did. Now we have kids without parents, spouses without loved ones, companies that lost hundreds of employees. They didn’t do anything bad, they just went to work."