Friday, July 4, 2008

On the subject of fireworks

"The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."
- John Adams in a letter to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776
The Brave Astronaut family has returned home from a long day of celebrating America's independence. We did not see any fireworks and the smallest members of the family were done for the day. The older members of the BA family (including my birthday boy father) are watching fireworks displays from around the country on TV. It's the best we can do.

My friends over at ChvBlog wished their readers a Happy 4th with the admonishment of being careful not to break the laws of my county regarding fireworks. I am reminded of years past, when I took part in many fireworks displays in our neighborhood growing up. Was life just simpler then? Or were the neighbors paying off the cops? I had friends and neighbors up the street who would travel to Florida and stop at "South of the Border" in South Carolina and stock up on fireworks to put on a moderate display of fireworks on our street. We didn't worry about the police, we didn't worry about fire, and to the best of my memory, no one was ever seriously injured. But we always had a good time.

I remember one year, I went into Chinatown in New York City and got myself a selection of fireworks and put on my own display in the vacant lot near my house. I even set it to patriotic music. As the Fourth is my father's birthday there were usually people around to come over and watch what was being put on.

Growing up in New York (and I just said this again today) I never took the opportunity to go and watch the enormous fireworks display put on by the Grucci family. Maybe someday. I have seen my fair share of fireworks displays over the years, in fact, shortly after moving to Washington DC, I found myself sitting in the shadow of the Washington Monument with Mrs. BA to watch the fireworks over the National Mall. It was July 2002, and it was a little weird and a bit unnerving to be in a space with lots of people so soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I understand the need for regulation of fireworks. There are just too many stupid people out there and I get that people suffer grave injuries on this day. But John Adams seemed to trust us over two hundred years ago. I've even gotten in trouble once for fireworks, but since it was with the University Police Department and I kept myself out of trouble the record was expunged (some day I might even tell you about the comment I made to one of Mrs. BA's oldest friends that nearly derailed the nascent relationship - regarding university police departments).

I don't think I really have an answer here, but I am just putting this out there to see what people think. Fireworks good, fireworks bad? Heavy regulation or minimal regulation? Got a really good fireworks story to share? Lay it on us. Happy Fourth everybody.


Lana Gramlich said...

I remember a July 4th block party near Erla's house one year. Although it was held by the local fire marshall (who lived down the street,) one year one of the local kids lost an ear to an errant firework. Then again, there are no guarantees in life.
I was lucky one year in Canada...A good friend of mine & I went to the Victoria restaurant for a glass of wine. Now, at the end of tourist season, the outdoor, 2nd story balcony was so bare we were able to get a table right up front by the railing. Little did we know that we were about to enjoy a fireworks show over Niagara Falls--the season ender, largest & most spectacular of the year. I'll never forget that evening. It was wonderful.

C in DC said...

We too watched the splendor of the "Capitol Fourth" from the comfort and air conditioning of our home this year. We seem to make it down to the Mall about every other year to see the spectacular.

This is also the first year in many that we did NOT celebrate living in the regulation-free fireworks zone that is DC by setting off some of our own. (Nothing that flies in our case, though...) It's just not the same without our former neighbor Charles.