On the eighth anniversary of Lexington fire Lt. Brenda Cowan's death, friends and colleagues gathered at her old station to remember her and unveil a tribute that is something of a mystery.
After Cowan died — gunned down while responding to a domestic violence call in 2004 — someone apparently gave the fire department a handcrafted blanket designed to look like an American flag under a black stripe.
Gold writing on the stripe honors Cowan's bravery and includes the date of her death: Feb. 13, 2004.
No one seems to know who crocheted the blanket or when it was dropped off. It was found about a year ago in a maintenance office at Fire Station #1.
"It was just found in an office in a bag. We don't have a note. We don't have any way of thanking whoever did this," Battalion Chief Ed Davis said Monday after firefighters dedicated the afghan to Cowan's memory. It has been framed and hung on the wall at Fire Station #18, Cowan's former station, on Old Richmond Road.
"Somebody cared deeply and put a lot of effort into this," Davis said. "I'm sure that the Cowan family would like to know where this came from."
Maj. Chris Sweat said he found the blanket while cleaning the office at Fire Station #1. It was wrapped in a black trash bag and had been placed on a bookshelf, he said.
"Nobody seemed to know anything about it," he said. "I just brought it out here. I figured the guys at (Station) 18 would want it."
The 4-foot by 8-foot blanket is easily big enough to cover a couch or a twin bed, but firefighters thought it would be better to hang it over the front desk at Fire Station #18.
The flag brightens the otherwise drab room, similar to the way firefighter's remember Cowan's smile. Five people spoke during a short memorial service for Cowan, each one recalling her hearty smile or her positive outlook on life.
Cowan was Lexington's first black female firefighter. She was a trained paramedic, a University of Kentucky graduate and the sister of Fred Cowan, a member of UK's 1978 national championship team. She had been promoted to lieutenant and assigned to Fire Station #18 about a week before her death.
Cowan was among the first to arrive at the scene of a shooting at 8645 Adams Lane, about a mile from the station. Cowan was shot by Patrick Hutchinson, a paranoid schizophrenic who had shot and killed his wife, Fontaine, before paramedics arrived. Another firefighter was wounded by Hutchinson, who was firing a rifle through an open window of the home.
Keith Jackson, now the interim fire chief, recalled going to UK with Cowan. For him, the relationship went beyond work.
He said Cowan took Jackson under her wing when he was a freshman and she was a sophomore. He and Cowan played basketball together, and Cowan went to church with his grandmother.
"She always wanted to be a good example, not only for us in the division of fire, but for the people in the community that she served," Jackson said.