Lighting Aerial Lift Bridge pink inspires breast cancer patientsEven while she’s talking to you, Sarah Lewerenz can’t stop looking at the bridge. And as she made her way to her hillside home Friday night, she planned to repeat what she did last year when Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge was swathed in pink as part of breast cancer awareness month. She would stare for hours more out of her window.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
Even while she’s talking to you, Sarah Lewerenz can’t stop looking at the bridge. And as she made her way to her hillside home Friday night, she planned to repeat what she did last year when Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge was swathed in pink as part of breast cancer awareness month. She would stare for hours more out of her window.
“The idea is still overwhelming,” she said.
Friday’s ceremony was met with wind, drizzle and the powerful sounds of Lake Superior crashing into the shipping canal — equally brutal to the weather that greeted people last year, organizers said. It meant for a sparse turnout Friday of mostly cancer awareness volunteers as the lights went on at 6:30 p.m.
“Cancer doesn’t stop because of the weather and we won’t either,” said Kim Orn, a regional manager for the American Cancer Society.
Lewerenz was part of history last year, when she was at a meeting of organizing volunteers for the local cancer walk, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. Fellow cancer survivor Bonnie Perkins said adorning the lift bridge with pink light could send a strong community message for awareness.
“I had no idea how powerful it would be,” Lewerenz said.
A year later, she remained stricken in the pink light below the bridge.
Despite all the family and friend support a cancer survivor can receive, Lewerenz said it’s especially helpful for her to know the larger world is behind the cancer fight as well.
“You still do feel lonely,” she said. “When you get that diagnosis, you cross a line. Lighting this bridge means a lot. It says the community supports you.”
Weather permitting, the bridge will be lit through Monday morning.
Friday’s lighting kicked off the weekend that includes the Making Strides walk at Lake Superior College this morning. Registration, thankfully, organizers said, will begin inside the college at 8 a.m., and a walk will take place at 9:30 a.m. if weather allows. There are more than 200 people registered to walk with more welcome in the morning, organizer Monica Hendrickson said.
Last year’s lighting was a first for the bridge, and it led to other groups seeking permission from the city to do the same for their causes. By January, the Duluth City Council created a process for groups to light the bridge that includes getting permission from the Coast Guard.
Hendrickson said there was no doubt that the bridge would be lit up in pink again, considering the reaction last year to the simple act.
“We had a lot of survivors who sat here and wept,” she said. “It was overwhelming. I sat next to a man whose wife had died from cancer, and he said ‘You have no idea what this means to me.’”
Hendrickson addressed the volunteers as they held pink light sticks.
“We have a great beacon of hope here in our city,” she said.
Photos of the lift bridge went viral last year, organizers said. They could be found with photos of other iconic structures bathed in pink across the world.
Music for the event was mostly 1980s pop songs with lyrics to match the fight against cancer; songs like “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Take Me On” and, perhaps in an ironic snub to the weather, “Heat of the Moment.”
Lewerenz kept staring at the bridge and quietly talked about her two-year battle with cancer. This month of pink reminders remains inspiring for her, both in her personal fight and in volunteering for cancer awareness missions.
“I’m alive because of the American Cancer Society’s work,” she said. “I believe in passing it on.”
As she and others began to leave, one last song played: “What A Feeling.”