Wednesday was Jane Mercado’s lucky day — if you consider climbing 182 steps lucky.
The Farmingdale physical therapist brought her two sons and a niece to the Fire Island Lighthouse to conquer the climb for the first time as a last hurrah before they return to school. She had no idea that the tower had been closed to tours since March.
But Wednesday was the first full day the tower reopened to the public, and the family was able to see a 360-degree view of Fire Island towns, the Robert Moses causeway bridge and the ocean waves. On clear days, climbers can see Manhattan. “We’re lucky, right?” Mercado, 42, said to Jacob, 12, and Joshua, 9, and her niece, Julianne Martinez, 8, also of Farmingdale.
The kids agreed — even though Joshua said, “My legs are sore.”
In March, a powerful storm had caused some of the white concrete facade on the bottom outdoor ring of the lighthouse to slide off, said Erik Westpfahl, chief law enforcement ranger for Fire Island National Seashore. It didn’t affect the tower structurally, but the lighthouse closed to tours to be safe until a steel reinforcement could be completed, he said. The museum and other buildings at the site remained open.
There was no formal ceremony marking the reopening of the tower Wednesday, just the resumption of selling tickets — $10 per adult and $5 for children 12 and younger — and doling out certificates of completion.
Matthew Durso, 30, a teacher from Garden City, and Lynne Young, 32, a teacher from Long Beach, attended to climb the tower as their fifth date. “We were looking for things to do on the island that were active,” Durso said. This was Young’s first time at the top. “It’s pretty incredible. A Long Island gem,” Young said.
Gregory Siragusa, 71, of West Islip is a volunteer with the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society, which operates the lighthouse. He was stationed at the top Wednesday morning, which started out rainy but cleared up.
His job is to share the history of the lighthouse with visitors — and to engage with children. “Next year, we’re putting a zip line in,” he said to Jacob, Joshua and Julianne as they were about to head back down the 182 steps.
Their faces lighted up.
“Just kidding,” Siragusa said.