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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Fireworks In The Past

I have always enjoyed fireworks, and I have many, many happy memories of being in large crowds watching 4th of July, American Independence Day celebrations throughout the years, and at various locations around the country. When I was a child in Minnesota, Kansas, and Missouri our family would sometimes go to a park to enjoy the fireworks, sometimes we would just sit in the backyard to oooh and ahhh over them. As I grew up I went further afield for fireworks.

In Columbus, Ohio, the Columbus Dispatch newspaper said several million people had crowded over the bridges of the downtown district, and onto the banks of the vast Scioto River Front to celebrate the 4th of July. I believe that there were millions there because I was there and the organic press of the human crowd was something I have never experienced before nor since. I was scared witless when fireworks from the river barges went catawampus into the crowds along the banks. No one was hurt but those parts of the crowd scattered like little animals in the dark, and their fear rippled over the entire mass of us. We did not stay scared long because the uproar of the fireworks, the prolonged din of it, and the sheer mass of the crowd transcended personal feelings into a communal awe.

In Lake Havasu City, Arizona, I remember diverting from my cross-country trip to drive all day and into the night to see fireworks over the London Bridge, the same London Bridge that formerly spanned the River Thames in London, England. But when I got there I had a sense that it would be unwise for me to linger, something about the way people were moving and drinking in the dark, so I did not even stop my vehicle. I only glimpsed a few bursts of fireworks over my shoulder as I did a U-turn about to travel on.

Ethereal fireworks over the Pacific Ocean, along the San Diego Bay, was the most luxurious 4th of July I have ever seen. Someone in the Sierra Club had found the perfect spot on a jetty where we saw fireworks displays above four or five of the various inlets of the bay, and we saw even more fireworks far, far in the distance. The natural music of the ocean played against humanity’s celebratory fire in the sky. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced.

I have probably experienced fifty or more 4th of July fireworks celebrations in my life, but the last one is the one I value most. The previous year I had driven into a Bloomington, Illinois fireworks area late and there was nowhere to park. But I saw the classy chassis of an expensive convertible double-parked and headed in the perfect direction to see the fireworks. I wondered why no one complained, then I saw that an old, rich guy was behind the wheel, with a cute young woman at his side. I pulled my comparative clunker up to double-park behind his convertible, to his annoyance but what could he do? The fireworks went off and I had the second best spot in town. As the finale exploded, the old guy and his girl slowly drove away under the optical illusion of a fireworks conflagration overhead, and I followed in their wake. Thrilling. So, I knew just where to go the next year when I realized that it might be the last year for my mother to see fireworks. As usual, she did not want to go anywhere, but I buffaloed her into my car, and got us to that sweet spot for fireworks. She saw the fireworks almost directly overhead, she felt the awe of it, and then she got tired and cranky, so I took her home before the finale. But I have had the memory of magnificent fireworks, and so did she.

Caption: Fireworks In the Past

by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018

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