The July 4th I Saw More Fireworks Than Anyone Ever

AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson

In my youth, Memorial Day seemed a bigger deal than July 4th. Perhaps because I had a relative who sacrificed in World War II, going down in a Spitfire over Dunkirk.


Back then, the May holiday was called Decoration Day in the U.S., a tradition that began after the Civil War when, first, Southern women and then their Union sisters began decorating the shallow graves of soldiers, regardless of the army they served.

Abraham Lincoln noticed and declared May 30 Decoration Day (whatever day of the week that was, three-day weekend or not).

July 4th did, however, have fireworks, a major attraction to my eyes and ears. My rural Ohio town was home to two major fireworks makers. So, supplies were no problem.

Local volunteer firefighters performed the risky business of setting up the huge mortars, then lighting the fuses with flaming road flares. All I had to do was sit in the high-school football stands, oohing and aahing with everyone else.

My interest continued through the years, and I shared it with my first son. At age two, he knew nothing of the event but picked up on my excitement.

We sat on a blanket in a meadow joining hundreds of strangers eagerly anticipating the show.

Finally, in the newborn darkness, the opening was announced. A single explosive shot rocketed from its tube and soared alone high into the sky, leaving only a slight trail of sparks. One second of silence. Then, with an immense THUNK, it exploded, pounding our chests.


My son, mouth open, was stunned. That was the loudest noise he’d ever heard. He recovered quickly, however. In one panicked second, he jumped up, grabbed his teddy bear, and announced, “OK, yet’s go!”

I’ve witnessed countless July 4th fireworks displays over the passing years, always with excitement and joy.

Perhaps strangely, however, my most memorable fireworks show was one I could not hear.

I happened to be flying cross-country, East to West, on a July 4th evening some years ago feeling a little sorry for myself that I would miss the fireworks at home.

Few people are silly enough to travel on holiday nights. So, I left my preferred aisle spot for the empty window seat where I could lean my head and impatiently pass the ponderous hours seven miles high.

But I did not nod off that night.

A flash outside in the dark caught my eye. There, 35,000 feet beneath my window, a modest fireworks show began in a town I would never know. Colored sparkles suddenly erupted out of the dark and faded, to be followed immediately by another eruption and another explosion. I immediately thought of the happy crowds back in my old high-school stadium.

I probably saw only five or six of the explosions down there as we passed overhead, and that show fell away behind. I pronounced it a delightful blessing.


But then, something amazing happened. Another fireworks display was starting far below, just off the wing. And then another up ahead. And another beyond that.

We were flying into the night at about the same speed as the gathering darkness was enclosing town after town and city after city.

Soon, there were silent explosions erupting all over in my speeding view. Sometimes, I could see five or six shows at once shooting up toward me. all different colors, all bright, far apart. all strangely silent, all celebrating my country’s birthday.

By the time one batch was disappearing behind the wing, others had appeared in the blackness ahead.

It was wondrous.

For one evening at least, a vast nation that could argue and divide itself over so many things not really worth arguing and dividing over had gathered simultaneously in many scattered places all at once to mark the birthday of their shared land together in the same time-honored fashion as so many previous generations.

In all my holiday forays, I had never seen so many fireworks in one sitting. And none since.

This amazing scene went on for more than two hours, one after another, probably scores of them; I didn’t count or check my watch. After a while, the individual eruptions below became continuous and longer. The finales had begun.


It was simply too much unexpected fun soaking up all the colorful explosions from my private, high-speed perch.

And thinking, for a change, that despite all the invasive Us vs Them blather that so often hangs over us like wildfire smoke, we really are still one nation, under God, indivisible in Liberty.

I don’t bother going to fireworks shows much anymore. Don’t need to. I have that one unforgettable July 4th holiday embedded in my memory when I secretly witnessed my Nation united for one enjoyable evening.

And now I’ve shared it with you.

This is the first in an occasional series of memories that RedState editors suggested I share. Perhaps you’ll share your July 4th memories in the Comments below. I hope you enjoyed this and will pass it on to fellow countrymen as a reminder of what we all silently share, and not just on this day.


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