like fireworks, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

Twenty-five years ago I watched a display of fireworks from my hospital room window, knowing that in the morning I would be wheeled into surgery to remove the tumor in my knee via the amputation of my leg. My cancer diagnosis was in May and I'd had six weeks of subsequent chemotherapy. All the while, of course, praying for the miracle that would mean that God would cure my of the cancer before the amputation surgery. Dad stayed with me that night, July 4th 1984, pushing my wheelchair to the large window by the elevators that offered an even better view of the aerial display.

Since then I find it difficult to get excited about fireworks. I mean, I can enjoy them and be overwhelmed in the sensation of sound and light. But...I rarely seek them out on my own, typically eschewing 4th of July activities that involve them, preferring to picnic or relax with friends.

My friend Brecken recently gave me a new reason to feel ambivalent about fireworks. In her work with HandReach she learned that 90% of the world's fireworks are manufactured in one Chinese village, and she's met many of the victims of accidents that have occurred as a result of this incredibly dangerous industry. If you'd like to hear a story about the human impact of fireworks manufacturing, click on the link below.

As for me, from now on I think I'll stick to displays like the one pictured above--it offers enough 'fireworks' for me.


Lorell said...

I like your thoughts on this, thank you for writing them, for I have very similar feelings!

10 year ago yesterday my parents watched fireworks from my 5th floor hospital room. Staying at my beside as I recovered from surgery, and attempted to feel human again.

The 4th is a struggle for me as well, I hated the way the haze on the horizon looked after every city had a firework display. I always wondered about the impact socially and environmentally when it came to such traditional spectacle.

I took my kids to the parade in our city which was full of peace groups which made me feel more patriotic than ever. Later we drove in a parking lot to see fireworks, after the first 3 were lit they were over it. Ugh. I then went home and pondered by myself about my feelings of holidays. They are meant to celebrate something good, but it ends up doing more bad than good. or does it?

galen dara said...

last night I stepped out once or twice to see what displays the sky offered.

But what really struck me, as I puttered around the house getting ready for today was the fact that it sounded like I was in a war zone. And realizing that, really, that was probably the point. We (Americans) have this patriotic obsession with the rocket's red glare and bombs bursting in air.

I think firework displays can be stunning, but (especially in light of the human cost video you posted) found myself wanting an alternative way of celebrating that did not glorify munitions.

hope your forth (with friends and food) was lovely!

sarah k. said...

I didn't watch any fireworks last night, either, but I, too, was struck by the sound. It was like bombing and machine guns and terror. And then, all that smoke. I think I'll try to find an alternative way to celebrate my American-ness in the future.

Karen Smulevitz said...

The Fourth of July always presents a difficult conundrum for me. On one hand, I enjoy the feeling of awe to see the flags flying and the nightsky spectacular; I usually spend a few moments to reread the Declaration of Independence and reflect on its meaning in today's world. And then there is my reality. I gave up my car ten years ago, so I can't get my dogs out of Oakland, and we are subjected to several days, if not weeks, of fireworks. Despite slightly overdosing them on doggie tranquilizers, they get terrorized and are inconsolable. So, like Chinese New Year with its firecrackers, I dread the fourth and eagerly await its passing. I cannot go to a barbeque or event because I wouldn't leave them alone. Just because I am obviously biased and should recuse myself from any debate about fireworks, doesn't mean that besides sound pollution they don't also emit chemical toxins into the air and ground and produce profits by exploiting poor workers. Seems to me we could come up with a twenty-first century method of celebrating and enjoying our heritage.

Alisa said...

Simply heartbreaking video. I've never liked the super loud noises, even as a child. Now I have more reason to be weary.

xJane said...

I do often enjoy fireworks—from the ones you shoot at neighbors in small German villages on Silvestertag (yes, that actually happens, it's a minor miracles that fewer houses don't burn down during xmas and New Year's in Germany, what with putting candles on dry trees and shooting fireworks intentionally at each other) to the elaborate shows put on by rich cities and companies to celebrate…whatever.

But they got against my eco-nature, since you get so little proverbial bang for your environmental buck. As anyone who has walked the streets on any morning after can attest. It's like smoking: I enjoy the taste of cloves on my lips, but I can only rarely reconcile the ash, air pollution, or trash created.