4th of July celebration, joys, loud explosions and tragedies

The 4th of July is both a wonderful celebration of our nation’s founding, and a reminder of how irresponsible and reckless some Americans can be with fireworks. The explosions are filling the air outside my home in Orland Park much like the television reports of American forces bombing Hanoi back in the 1960s and Baghdad in 2003. I just wonder how many people will wake up tomorrow with injuries from fireworks.

By Ray Hanania

RayHanania155x130I’m sitting in my home listening to the cherry and hammer bombs exploding outside at a rate of more than two or three each minute. Orland Park sounds like a war zone, filled with the explosions we used to only hear during television reports of the Vietnam War in 1969.

The 4th of July is considered one of the most dangerous holiday seasons of them all, in a large part because the weekend is considered one of the favorite driving road trips and travel weekends. The Law of Averages argues convincingly that the more you drive, the more there will be accidents.

An 8 year old boy was killed when his father ran him over while driving a float in an Independence Day parade in Edmond, Oklahoma.

But it’s accidents from fireworks that are most frightening. A fireworks accident is so personal. Statistics show that one-third of all fireworks related accidents are to the hands, followed by injuries to the face and eyes. There have been far worse and gruesome injuries and deaths from fireworks, too.

Occasionally, a beachgoer will be bitten by a shark during the holidays. I’m not sure if author Peter Benchley made beaches safer and reduced shark attacks or simply frightened the “beJesus” out of everyone.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Illinois bans most fireworks yet the place sounds like Krazy Kaplan had opened up a fireworks stand in Daley Plaza during the lunch hour on a work day. If you don’t know who Krazy Kaplan is, then you don’t drive on the interstate much. Beginning around April of each year, you will see his huge billboards bumper-to-bumper on the major expressways, concentrated around the Illinois border with Indiana, where KK’s fireworks emporiums are based.

Indiana is lenient about fireworks. Although it is illegal for Illinois residents to stop at any of the dozens of firework stores in Indiana, I think Illinois residents are their biggest consumers. Where else do neighbors get those huge bombs that rattle your home?

When I was a kid back in the 1960s, I remember riding my bicycle from Pill Hill to just over the Indiana border to buy Black Cat fire crackers and bottle rockets. You could also buy a box of Cherry Bombs and Hammer Bombs which had those stiff green fuses. They sounded like grenades and could take your hand off with one hesitant toss and explosion. Lady Fingers were the smallest firecrackers and they were fun. But even a Lady Finger can injure a child’s finger, or eye.

They even had some fireworks that had racist names that I won’t even recount. Back in the 1960s, White and Black racial tensions destroyed whole communities, caused many injuries and took many lives. But I don’t recall anyone calling the ground spinning sparklers that sped across the streets and sidewalks after being lit as “Honkey Chasers.”

Most suburban communities did not put on fireworks displays back then, but that haas changed today as the Chicagoland suburbs have grown tremendously. There was a time in 1968 when 95th Street and Cicero Avenue was “the end of the world.” You were literally like Christopher Columbus when you dared to venture west of Cicero Avenue. The only reason you might even go that far was to visit Rossi Music to buy Slinky Guitar Strings, and musical instruments. Rossi Music was one of two music stores right next to each other just over the Cicero Avenue border on 95th Street.

Today, I am not sure where the community borders are any more, or if borders even exist.

Like many suburban communities today, the Village of Orland Park puts on a fabulous fireworks display at Centennial Park, but that doesn’t begin until 9:30 pm, usually. So do communities like Lyons, which had a spectacular night of fireworks on Saturday, July 4, put on by the region’s youngest mayor Chris Getty.

But fireworks by villages are closely managed and scrutinized. The Orland Fire Protection District assigns a dozen firefighters and trucks to the Orland Park fireworks. So do the other suburban communities. The huge brilliant and multi-colored explosions look great high up in the sky, but when one goes wrong, fires don’t distinguish their victims or circumstances. A small spark is as bad as a blazing fire. Fire has no bounds.

The fire works accidents just don’t start on the 4th of July. People start lighting fireworks months before. And national statistics show that there are more than 200 injuries every day from fireworks before the Independence Day celebrations. More than 85 percent of the injuries involve people under the age of 45. Many involve burns from sparklers, which have intense heats and cause horrible and painful burns.

But who doesn’t want to hold and wave a sparkler during the holiday? It’s so American, which is why sparklers are generally legal in most states.

Another victim of the fireworks excesses are pets. Cats and especially dogs are frightened by the constant explosions leading up to the holiday and more so during the intense concentration of the explosions as the 4th of July day turns into evening past sunset. Animals can easily be frightened tremendously by the explosions and many are also injured by reckless use of fireworks.

This year, groups began distributing signs to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Patriotism today has fueled a greater concern for veterans today than there was back during the Vietnam War or even the Korean War. Veterans received better benefits who served during the Vietnam War, as I did, but got so little respect from the public. Today, veterans are touted everywhere especially by politicians who can’t seem to wrap themselves more tightly with patriotism, the American Flag and their “love” for veterans. Of course, most o the politicians who do the “patriotism wrap” never served in the military, although a few have served in the military of foreign countries.

I always give true veterans, like Tammy Duckworth, my admiration and support because she made a great sacrifice losing both her legs in wartime, battlefront defense of this country. In contrast, Senator Mark Kirk, who has an American flag tightly wrapped about his career, exaggerated his own service to make him look like a war hero when he is not.

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). And, Hanania is a stubborn and loud critic of the biased mainstream American news media.

Hanania Chicago political beats and Chicago City Hall at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992). He published the The Villager Community Newspapers covering 12 Southwest suburban regions (1993-1997). Hanania also hosted live political news radio talkshows on WLS AM (1980 - 1991), and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM, WSBC AM in Chicago, and WNZK AM in Detroit.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. He currently is syndicated through Creators Syndicate. He has written for the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star of Lebanon, the News of the World in London, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, The Saudi Gazette, the Arab News in Jeddah, and Aramco Magazine.

Hanania's Chicagoland columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald, the Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News and the Palos Reporter newspapers.

He is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

His personal website is www.TheMediaOasis.com. Email him at: [email protected]
Ray Hanania