A Shickshinny man played a key role in getting the Statue of Liberty's torch relighted after it was snuffed out by Hurricane Sandy.
Steve Brdaric, a former lineman for several companies, started his own company in July and was chosen as a subcontractor for the important task of bringing light back to Lady Liberty's torch and the rest of the iconic national park.
Brdaric, 61, who has Wichita Lineman as his cellphone's ring tone, opened Metro Test Energy Services after 42 years as a lineman working for others. His business partner, Reiner Jaeckle of Kunkletown, has business ties in the New York/New Jersey area.
Another electrical contractor – Turnpike Electric -- reached out to us and asked if we could do some electrical testing on the Statue of Liberty, Brdaric said. We both looked at it as a wonderful opportunity.
Brdaric left for New York Nov. 7 during the snow storm that followed Sandy's path along the eastern seaboard.
Sandy devastated communities in the New York City area and New Jersey along the coast and the statue's lights were extinguished for the first time in decades. Brdaric said getting the power returned to the Liberty Island landmark meant everything to residents of the region.
Everybody wanted to see the statue lights back on as soon as possible, Brdaric said. The torch helps guide planes flying into the JFK and Newark airports.
Brdaric said salt water that overflowed the island during record storm surge did a lot of damage to the statue's very sophisticated electrical system. The timing added urgency to the job.
We felt we had to get our work done as soon as possible, Brdaric said. Veterans Day was coming up and what better symbol of freedom than the Statue of Liberty.
When he arrived on the island, Brdaric said, Homeland Security searched his vehicle and performed a background check.
Brdaric said he performed acceptance testing on the statue's systems – assuring that the power system would be able to accept electricity from the utility without damage. He submitted his results to the Public Service Electric and Gas Co., the New Jersey utility that supplies power to the island.
Brdaric said he went into the base of the statue and repaired switch gear that was swamped by 4 feet of water, cleaning out the area before testing.
We had to make sure when the power came through that nothing would blow up, he said. We did a safe, but temporary fix. We might be asked to come back to do the permanent repairs.
Brdaric said he has had a lot of thrills in his 42 years doing this kind of work, but nothing comes close to working on the statue.
I've had to shut down entire towns, he said. But I gotta say this is the height of my career.
Brdaric's wife, Sharon, said the couple stayed at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan and became friendly with the concierge, who reserved a table at a popular restaurant. When they got there, they were treated like heroes, Sharon said.
The concierge told them about the work my husband did on the statue and they were high-fiving us and clapping, she said. The owner introduced himself to us and bought us drinks. I think we realized how important the Statue of Liberty is to New Yorkers and to all of America.
Brdaric said he believes getting the statue lighted again lifted the morale of everyone who lives and works in the metropolitan area. He spent two full days on Liberty Island working on the statue. The lights went on last Friday.
• The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and is a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.
• The statue was dedicated on Oct. 28, 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924 and restored for its centennial on July 4, 1986.