NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Driving across the George Washington Bridge will look a bit different for the rest of October.
It’s now lighting up pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis got exclusive access to the process that helps shine a light on a good cause.
Her breathtaking view from atop the iconic bridge looked much different than your daily drive, and offered a new perspective for what it takes to get all the way up there.
An elevator ride with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey may seem scary, but it doesn’t compare to the journey electrician Chris Bonanno experienced that motivated him to take action.
A little over a decade ago, he says his sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It hits home to me, and I’m sure a lot of people,” the Port Authority employee told CBS2.
While trying to find a way to cope and raise awareness for the deadly disease, he says a light literally went on.
“I came up with an idea when we were changing out the lights from mercury-vapor lamp to LED,” Bonanno said.
He wanted to light up the bridge pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and leaned on his Port Authority family to help make his vision a reality.
“I look at it as, I want people to know their families aren’t alone in this fight, my sister looks at it as, to get people tested earlier,” Bonanno said. “They were very supportive, because everyone knows unfortunately somebody going through this.”
For over a decade they’ve been turning the bridge’s 156 necklace lights pink by painstakingly changing the gels that cover the bulbs one-by-one.
On each is the name of a breast cancer survivor or someone who has succumbed to the disease.
Bridge tour manager Ryan Martinetti got a chance to wrap a light in honor of his grandmother, Pauline.
“Doing this means the world not just to me, but like Chris said, to everybody who has breast cancer,” Ryan said.
Even heavy construction on the bridge this year isn’t stopping the show, with crews are still lighting up the south side of the structure. While up there, they’re also doing routine maintenance work to the bridge’s light fixtures.
But is it scary?
“It’s high, but it seems to a point where it’s so high that you can black it out of your mind and you got your safety belt on,” Port Authority electrician Keith Bagdan said.
CBS2’s DeAngelis walked in the crew’s shoes as they worked roughly 400 feet above the road, attached with double cables and listening closely to the experts’ advice.
“Just try not to look down that much,” Bagdan said.
Some call it but brave, but the workers and engineers who make it happen say the real bravery is reserved for those who are battling breast cancer.
Bonanno is hoping it offers drivers a new perspective the next time they span the bridge.
“We just want to let the people know they’re not alone in this fight,” he said.
When the color gels with the names come down, they’ll then be given to the family members of those who have battled the disease. The bridge will stay lit through the month of October.