Wednesday, July 4, 2012

freedom and fireworks

In our little town of Ithaca we usually have Fourth of July fireworks.  In the past the fireworks were set off by Ithaca College, from the college hill on the 2nd of july.  This was always a bit strange to me, but it turns out that to get the pyrotechnic guys to come to your town on 4th July is rather more expensive than if they come on the 2nd.  So that's how it was always done here. 

Then last year, Ithaca College decided for some reason not to do the fireworks.  Noone quite knew how to respond and the city of Ithaca encouraged people to travel half hour away to Dryden/Cortland to join in the "Community fireworks" event there.  Well, Dryden is not terribly far away, but it is not my community.  And with a little kid in tow, I don't plan to travel half hour at 10pm for fireworks.  Thus, we, and most people in Ithaca missed out on fireworks last year.

We have a new mayor this year, Svante Myrick.  He suggested that we bring the fireworks back here to Ithaca.  At first I wondered if this was really the best use of the mayor's time?  Really, fireworks?  They pollute the air, cause all sorts of environmental ruckus, and what's the big whoop anyway?  But the more I saw the mayor and others talking about it on facebook, the more I realized that this might be one small little thing that was emotionally positive for people, symbolic of freedom, and maybe just a plain old fun thing to support. 

By here- he meant IN Ithaca, not up on the hill, not half hour away.  NO, here in Ithaca.  So the word spread, facebook, ever the networking genius, let people far and wide know that fireworks would happen here this year if we could raise between 15000 and 20000 dollars.  The base cost to have a fireworks display on the cheap night of July 2nd. 

Instead of just taxing people, the mayor asked for help.  He asked people to donate a little, whatever they could, so we could have this event.  After a week of fundraising half the cost was already given.  Most of it by the family of Corporal Christopher Bordoni, an Ithaca native Marine who died in service this year. The Firefighters gave a few thousand.  Lots of people donated on paypal whatever they could.  I gave ten bucks. 

It didn't take long to raise the funds, and the event was scheduled.  So, monday night, after a late evening tantrum of my 6 year old who most definitely wasn't "tired" we trekked down to the park 5 minutes from our house and laid out our blankets. We ate chips and watched the sky darken as the grass filled in with people all around us.  Across the inlet Stewart Park was buzzing with music and life too.  Eventually the show began. I laid in the grass between my two boys and watched the sky light up in remembrance of a date 236 years ago that has shaped the world forever.

I'll admit I'm not much of a patriot.  I have fallen in love with other countries of the world far more readily than I have America.  But watching those fireworks the other night, knowing that I gave a tiny bit of money to make this happen, feeling those booms hit my heart and then hit the hills behind me reminded me of something.  Something that seems to be lacking in this vitriolic, anger and fear filled political and economic system we are in the middle of.  It was just this... 

Each firework would light up the sky for a mere moment.  It was glorious, heart stopping, and glittery light that made you catch your breath and wonder how such a thing was created.  It was there for a second and I wanted to capture it and hold on.  But I couldn't.  One can't hold a firework any more than one can keep their baby little forever.  They passed quickly and then were gone.  But for a moment, for those 20 minutes the sky was shining over Ithaca, all Ithacans were in that moment together.  Remembering a revolution, remembering the freedom that we all believe in, and catching that light in each of our eyes, all of us together.  No matter how much we paid individually. 

Freedom is everyone's, just as the fireworks were.  True, some people paid more for it than others. And it's also true that some people CAN pay more. The point is that we Americans all believe in freedom, don't we?  But if you give what you can, with an honest heart and an open mind, you get wonderful things in return.  If you truly believe in freedom or fireworks, no matter how much you paid yourself, the fact that we ALL get to revel in it's glorious light, is enough. 

You can't catch a fireworks show, just as you can't catch freedom.  It's just there, for a moment lighting up the night.  You can love it, and fight for it, and give whatever you have to bring it to your town.  But most importantly, you can share it.  Then, there it will be, shining brightly for all who choose to come and enjoy the show. 


Franklin Crawford said...

i think the city did a good job of taking a civic leadership role in hosting the fireworks display this year. and a grand show it was.

my one exception is the location and forgive me here, but isn't the Fuertes Bird Sanctuary directly adjacent to the site of the show? Yes, yes, someone will always come forward and rain on the parade but next year, were we to do the same, perhaps the area beyond the Treman Marina would serve as a less invasive site for said display. It also would offer a lot more parking, easier access and egress and no RR tracks, which present their own hazard. July 4 occurs, generally, after nesting season and just before migratory birds begin to flock. While there is a marsh near the Treman area, I think such concussive sound effects would have less impact on water fowl and songbirds that nest in said area. I will forward my suggestion to the mayor and thank you for a lovely post; it's just that we tend to only think of human beings on the fourth of July and the heroes and heroines involved in the founding of this nation. We all too easily forget the carnage to flora and fauna and general environmental degradation that is one of the costliest side effects of the rockets red glare. With respect, Franklin Crawford, Administrator,

amanda said...

Thanks for the comment Franklin- and I have to agree with you! It's so easy to not consider the other beings all around us. And yet we must learn to do so more. Thank you for making this suggestion, and I hope the mayor will think about moving the show away from the bird sanctuary next year. I'm with you!