If you happened to see the skies over Philly turning an electric pink and purple Thursday night, you were not hallucinating. You were witnessing the sorcery of two of the great alchemists of the known universe — water and light.
“The souls of 76ers fans leaving earth,” posted one Reddit commenter. “Brotherly love exuding from the city into the atmosphere,” wrote another.
“It looked like South Philly was totally glowing,” said Jessica Roomberg, who, unlike most Philadelphians, actually knew what was behind a display that might make the northern lights envious.
She was a force behind all the pinkishness. On Thursday night, to draw attention to a rare genetic disorder known as Neurofibromatosis Type 1, which had claimed the life of her 17-month-old daughter Mila in 2019, the Philadelphia skyline was aglow with pink light.
Roomberg, a former executive producer at Fox 29, and her husband, Dan Roomberg, created the Magical Mila Foundation, which was able to arrange for key buildings and landmarks in the city, including Liberty Place, the Ben Franklin Bridge, and Lincoln Financial Field to display the special lighting for a night.
She said the foundation, which joined with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to create the “BP under 3″ program to advocate for blood-pressure screenings for at-risk children, had no trouble recruiting light-show participants. “People were totally receptive,” she said.
The pink lights blazed for the first time on May 13, 2021, she said, adding it was a date picked arbitrarily. You say you didn’t notice?
On the same date last year, the atmosphere was considerably drier. That was not the case Thursday night when the weather started taking a turn for the soggier that is going to persist through the weekend and spoil the view of the lunar eclipse late Sunday night into Monday, around here and throughout the East.
Clouds and off-and-on showers are in the forecast until Tuesday.
The short-lived run of decent weather did execute quite a dramatic exit. The air swelled with water vapor and clouds late Thursday night, followed by mist and fog.
To put on a show in the night sky, the pink lights found a kindred spirit in the moisture.
Derrick Pitts, the Franklin Institute’s chief astronomer, theorized that “the water droplets in the fog were refracting the light from the buildings.”
As to the why of the purple, “It could be due to the particle size of the water droplets,” he said. “It could be the angle of refraction.”
The Roombergs have their own theory for the sky show: “We like to think it’s a sign from our daughter.”