The list of cities to have recently experienced some horrific, deadly event continues to grow, sadly. Last week, Baton Rouge. Before that, Dallas. Nice, France, and before that, Paris. And just more than a month ago, there was Orlando. Each a site of unspeakable violence, committed by various forces of hate, terror or sheer madness, now all seemingly combined within our national consciousness in a vision of a mad, mad world.
Locally—and across the globe, unfortunately—the hashtag #OrlandoUnited has symbolized a community’s prideful stand against a heinous, hate-filled act. While the rainbow colors associated with the gay pride movement that have been used in conjunction with the #OrlandoUnited hashtag may most specifically refer to the horrific shooting at the Pulse nightclub, its spirit of a united community may apply just as easily to other global events.
In the wake of the recent attack in Nice, for instance, communities across the globe showed their support and solidarity—and, by extension, it seems, to other sites of horrific events—by lighting up their iconic buildings and infrastructure facilities, literally shining a light amidst the darkness.
And so it was in Orlando, at 2:02 a.m. on July 12, 2016—one month to the moment that the Pulse shooting occurred—that officials with the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) and the entity’s maintenance contractor, Jorgensen Contract Services LLC, flipped the switch and lit up the Underhill Bridge along State Road 408, bathing the local infrastructure landmark in the rainbow colors of #OrlandoUnited.
The moment came about at the prompting of Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, who just two days after the Pulse tragedy, used the occasion of CFX’s regularly scheduled board meeting to ask authority leaders what it would take to shine those rainbow colors upon the bridge.
“That event shook this community pretty hard,” says Michelle Maikisch, chief of staff and public information officer for CFX. “When she asked that question, we started looking into it with our regular maintenance contractor (Jorgensen). Then, when we started calling people about it, they just wanted to donate their time and services and products to the community. They did it for the community. They didn’t really want to make a big deal out of it – because it’s not about anybody getting credit for it.”
John McPherson, Jorgensen vice president, says the contractor assessed the site and developed a plan for adding the lighting, with the initial price tag coming in at more than $200,000, Maikisch reported. Jorgensen then asked lighting distributor SESCO Lighting if it could do a little better on its price. That prompted a meeting with Phillips, the lighting manufacturer, which then volunteered to donate the necessary equipment. SESCO and local lighting supplier Lamp Sales, along with Jorgensen, likewise decided to donate their services. CFX’s only expense ended up being the costs to deliver the equipment to Orlando, says Maikisch.
The installation included 48 LED lights, says McPherson, with an east and west controller each controlling 24 units each. “Each cable stay and pier have 24 total lights,” McPherson says, with 16 smaller LEDs installed along each of the bridge’s two cable stays, and then eight larger lights located around the beam.
“The 32 small lights that light up the cables are secured to junction boxes embedded in the concrete,” McPherson says. “The 16 larger lights are anchored directly into the concrete collar around the beam.”
The project team—which in addition to Jorgensen, SESCO and Lamp Sales also included United Signs and Signals—was able to complete the installation just prior to the one-month anniversary on July 12. “We were tasked to flip the switch at 2:02 on the 12th, and we accomplished that,” McPherson says, noting that the effort carried a bigger meaning than usual.
“What’s going on around the country and around the world is pretty sad,” he says. “To have (this tragedy) done in our own backyard really hits home. To be able to contribute back to the community made me and our organization pretty proud. It was special to see the lights come on.”