Extraordinary Stories

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Friday, September 5, 2014

The "Lady Liberty" Story

My wife's photo of Lady Liberty standing
in the middle of the Susquehanna River.
It was an ordinary day.  Driving Rts. 22/322 heading home from a visit with our friends in State College, PA.  I had preset my camera to "S" for shutter speed so Carol could take a photo out of her window as we headed through the Dauphin Narrows just north of Harrisburg, PA.  Then all of a sudden there it was next to us.  Sitting on an old 1882 railroad pier 
 in the middle of the Susquehanna River was Lady Liberty.  Not the real one, but a replica of it that was built from plywood and venetian blinds in 1986 and placed on the pier by Gene Stilp and about a dozen of his friends on July 1, 1986.  They accomplished the feat by towing the 450 pound statue to the river and then hauled it about half a mile downstream to the pier with the use of two boats. While attempting to accomplish their feat, two passing canoeists passed and offered a hand.  With the use of ropes it was hoisted onto the old pier, the blinking construction hazard light installed in the torch was turned on and the men returned to their base and enjoyed a few beers and pizza.  
A different view of Lady Liberty taken by Associated
Press photographer Carolyn Kaster in 2005.
The next morning early commuters began backing up on the highway as they slowed to view the statue.  After about six years it was damaged by a wind storm.  Mr. Stilp managed to raise enough money to build a new statue of wood, fiberglass and metal.  The new statue weights about 4 tons so putting it in place with boats and ropes was out of the question.  In 1997 a helicopter was used to place the new statue in place.  The first statue was meant to be a prank and was secretly placed on the pier, but the new one needed several permits before being put in place.  The brilliant white statue now stands erect and beautiful in the middle of the Susquehanna and Carol hasn't been the first to take a photo of it.  A neat fact about the second statue is that Mr. Stilp equipped it with solar-powered lights, but decided not to activate them for fear of a nighttime accident from a distracted driver.  What a great reminder of our freedom and independence standing right in the middle of the great Susquehanna River.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.     

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