Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fireworks: beyond the "Ohhs" and "Ahhs"

Chicago lights up the night over Lake Michigan; San Diego sends up its firepower over Mission Bay; for Boston the sky's ablaze over the Charles River; in St. Louis it's reflections across the mighty Mississippi; and in Washington D.C. the spectacle is held on the National Mall. All across America thousands of towns will hold firework displays over mountains, cornfields, forests and plains this coming July Fourth. The time-honored tradition of celebrating our country's independence with firework displays began in Philadelphia in 1777. It continues strong to this day.

Fireworks have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From childhood to now, the evening of July Fourth finds my family armed with blankets, lawn chairs and a cooler, as we head out to claim the best place to maximize the viewing experience. Our exuberance over watching the rockets' red glare can sometimes backfire, however. One year we got so close the spent shell casings were dropping all around us. That was too close.

We know what to expect, and we love it every time. Each year the boisterous crowd quickly quiets down as the first shell explodes over head, signaling the beginning of the barrage. Throughout the evening the crowd shows its appreciation for the pyrotechnic brilliance with gasps of "ohhs" and "ahhs." The shell that swells into a giant red star rates a subdued "ohh," while the mortar that erupts into a blossom that fills the night sky in brilliant color rates a hardy "ahh!" The finale is always a crowd pleaser, prompting a multitude of "ohhs" and "ahhs" along with a thunderous ovation, as the last spark fades from the sky.

As I join the crowd in applauding this year's Fourth of July production, I will once again be reminded of the great cost paid for our country's continuing freedom. From the time of the "shot heard 'round the world" until now, our country has had brave men and women willing to bear arms against all invaders in the defense of this magnificent nation.

The boom and spectacle of the fireworks overhead remind me of the roar of the cannons fired in battle throughout the years. The repetitive bursts of the finale call to mind the bombardments that shook our forts and encampments -- then and now.

The dazzling colors, smoke-filled air, and smell of gun powder bring to mind sacrifices paid in life and limb.

As I view this year's annual celebration, I will remember what has been done for me by those who knew me not. And I will pause to reflect on their great service -- a service fueled on the unshakeable premise that all men are born to be free.

Thank you -- from the bottom of my heart -- thank you.

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