Be safe, patient and mindful this Independence Day

July 03, 2011

As with most Americans, I’ve always been a fan of the Fourth of July holiday.

I mean, seriously, what’s not to love?

Cookouts, parades, hanging out with friends and family, a day off from work for most people, followed by fireworks to cap off the night.

Good stuff, right?

Proud to be American and all that God Bless the USA happiness.

As I got older, certain parts of that mattered more than others: Sharing those cookouts with special loved ones who are no longer here, enjoying a day off with my daughter and sharing a blanket with a special someone as the rockets’ red glare exploded high above our heads.

The holiday means different things to everyone. The big thing to me is making the most of the moment, and enjoying the unique celebrations and unity that bring Americans together, like parades and fireworks.

So as we embark on what looks to be a great day weather-wise today, here are a few things to remember to help us all enjoy the day:


  • Be safe. Fireworks are available everywhere now. (I remember when I was a kid, you had to have a father or uncle who knew somebody who knew this other guy to get fireworks.) They are still as dangerous as ever. Don’t get lazy with them or somebody’s going to be spending the night in the ER, wondering how they are going to type with seven fingers instead of 10.

Quick story: Last year, we were setting off fireworks behind my house and we didn’t go out far enough. A couple of bottle-rocket types fell over while exploding, launching themselves horizontally onto my neighbor’s yard. The dry grass erupted in flames, leaving big holes in his yard, and me with hat and hose in hand. Lesson learned.

  • Be patient. Lines will be long, temperatures will be hot, parking will be a bear and kids will be whiny.

Patience is one of my weaknesses. Trust me, we’ll need it today. But you’ll be glad you have it.

  • Be mindful of our history. We are celebrating our freedom, which was brokered more than 230 years ago by people long-since dead, and preserved by many who gave their lives in wars here and abroad.

On July 8, 1776, the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence were held in Philadelphia’s Independence Square to the ringing of bells and band music. One year later, on July 4, 1777, Philadelphia marked Independence Day by adjourning Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells and fireworks.

Congress established Independence Day as a holiday in 1870, and in 1938, Congress reaffirmed it as a holiday.

Our traditions today emulate the beginnings of the holiday, but it’s good that we keep in mind what it all means and why we celebrate.

  • Be smart. Get a designated driver if alcohol is going to be part of your celebration.

  • Lastly, remember to have fun, for goodness sake. Life is short, so enjoy the ride. What’s great about the Tri-State area is that we have so many options for entertainment, and today is no exception. Fireworks celebrations will be held in Hagerstown in Maryland, Martinsburg in West Virginia, and in Waynesboro, Greencastle and Chambersburg in Pennsylvania.

There will be parades, community picnics, and tons of food and things to do.

For a complete list of what to do today, go to our website at Type in “fireworks” in the search rectangle on the right side of our homepage and you’ll get a list of stories that will tell you what’s happening in the Tri-State.

Enjoy the Fourth.

Bill Kohler is Tri-State Editor of The Herald-Mail. Reach him at or 301-791-7281.

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