A Fizzled Fourth


Sometimes it seems like nothing happens in Washington DC without a scandal attached. This week, even the Fourth of July was marred, this time by the alleged misdeeds of (gasp!) PBS.

July 4 was either a miserable day or a glorious day, depending on your perspective. It was cloudy, rainy and only in the 70s. Knowing that the rest of the week was destined for the 90s, I reveled in the cool weather. But I was also keeping an eye on the forecast: there were, after all, fireworks at stake.

After several strong downpours throughout the afternoon (those poor soggy tourists!), the skies cleared and the fireworks on the National Mall were declared a “go.” At 9:09 pm, thousands of hardy souls, armed with ponchos and umbrellas, looked eagerly west for the first explosions - and were rewarded with…red clouds.

The rain had passed, but the cloud cover had not been so obliging. The top half of the Washington Monument was completely shrouded, which meant the top half of the fireworks also disappeared into the miasma seconds after their launch. From our viewpoint close to the Capitol, we could see some of the lower sparks and stars, but most of the show consisted of the clouds lighting up red or green as the fireworks exploded, unseen, within them.

PBS, who aired the fireworks, decided that this wasn’t much of a show at all. So instead of airing the live show, they pieced together some fireworks “greatest hits” and showed that instead. Many, many people were not pleased.

While the fireworks were a bit of a bomb (no pun intended), venturing out into the mud was still worthwhile. The collective patriotic energy on the Mall was infectious, and the cannons fired off from the Capitol grounds always stir the eardrums. I heard an assortment of languages around me, a testament to how many people had traveled very long distances to experience this American tradition for themselves. How fortunate I am that I only had to walk 20 minutes from my front door to be a part of it. You can’t get much more “Live Like a Tourist” than that.

And anyway, no fireworks can compare to the Legendary Geneva Fireworks of 2011. But that’s a story for another day.


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