When I was a kid, getting an invite to go see fireworks was one of the greatest things. On occasion, we would be invited to a rural home where they could safely set some off. I spent many years going downtown with the neighbors. (And we rode in the back of a pickup truck!) In my current neighborhood in the city, there were always a couple of houses where they would set off a few on the 4th (with buckets and hoses nearby). The annoyances came hen they would go off at random hours all day and all night, but that was relegated to a week or so before and after the holiday. (And seriously, what the hell is the point of setting off fireworks DURING the DAY? I don’t get it.) It was fun in small doses, but the pandemic has killed off any love I had left for fireworks.
First, New York State made certain fireworks legal, so you didn’t necessarily have to drive to another state to buy them. Second, all celebrations were canceled due to the pandemic. So people took matters into their own hands.
For several months, it was nonstop boomers and crackers at all hours of the day or night. There are memes you’ll see on social media that joke about playing the game of “Gunshot or Firecracker?” Unfortunately, it is a real thing, though. We have figured out that a lot of times, people are using firecrackers or fireworks to disguise the sound of gunshots and to trick the shot spotters. This year, we have even more shootings than ever before. So it can be unnerving at times, even though I live in what is generally considered a “nice” part of the city.
One particular night in June last year was horrible. Someone around the corner from me in my neighborhood was setting off professional grade fireworks, which still were illegal. It’s stupid enough to do that in such a densely populated area, but we hadn’t had any rain for a couple of weeks. I kept watching as sparks blew closer and closer to my house. I don’t think people realize how far that stuff travels. I’ve been burned twice while well within the “safe zone” at professional displays in Ohio and in Paris. But there was nothing I could do.
On the actual 4th, I was out in the suburbs dogsitting. The golf course across the way usually did their own show that I could watch. But of course, with the pandemic, those were canceled. So people in this neighborhood were randomly shooting them off, which I had never experienced there before. The 65-pound Gordon setter I was watching was literally on my lap. And then the house around the corner caught on fire, so the neighborhood was blocked off for a couple of hours. But that is still better than what apparently was happening in the city.
Here is a time-lapse video that one of the news stations captured of the night:
Sure, it looks kind of pretty at a distance and with no sound. But this was literally hours and hours all night long. One friend told me that noise was just nonstop and traumatic for his dog. Can you imagine how people with PTSD felt? Even those without PTSD were unnerved.
Another friend said he was trying to drive home that night and could barely see because the smoke was as thick as fog. He had all the windows rolled up in his car and the a/c blasting and was still choking.
That is just ridiculous.
And the fireworks just kept bursting for the next two-plus months. Now you’re not being patriotic; you’re just being an asshole.
This year, I tried to be optimistic as the state reopened and started announcing public fireworks shows. Yet in mid-May, they started up again. I can almost set my watch by them. But I still say you’re an asshole for setting them off because it is always just before 11 PM when people are sleeping or trying to fall asleep. I admit that I’m a night owl, but I do need some sleep. Most people I know are not night owls and do not like being awakened every night by the booms. Some of my neighbors have young children who have been traumatized. Even my cat gets scared now. It’s just obnoxious.
This year for the 4th, I was dogsitting in a different part of the city. We still heard all the fireworks, but again, not as bad as in my own neighborhood two miles up the road. One neighbor said it sounded like a war zone last night. Others commented about all the debris left over in yards and roads. Again, this does not make you patriotic. It makes you an asshole.
I know a lot of people who did go out to see professional fireworks displays last night. Their pictures are pretty. I just had zero desire to do so and feel like it will be quite a while before I will feel up to it again. And it’s a shame because I used to actually enjoy them – when they were special and on a holiday.
I also realize there is little I can do. For a day or two before and after the holidays (July 4th and Juneteenth), I try to grit my teeth and bear it. But this nonstop stuff has just worn me out. And I am sad that something I once enjoyed feels like it has been taken from me.