Sunday, March 26, 2023 -
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Once again

Just like everyone, over the years I’ve run around looking for the best places to view July 4th fireworks. In Denver, most often I stayed in the neighborhood and saw them over Cranmer Park. I remember once catching the whole show on Alameda near Holly.

The view from my late grandmother’s apartment on Marion Pkwy., overlooking Wash Park, was spectacular, too.

Then, too, between Denver and Glendale there’s always that double July 4th fireworks opportunity. If you don’t catch one in person, you can always see fireworks the next night of the holiday weekend.

One summer I was lucky enough to see the fireworks from Peaks Lounge in downtown Denver. With a special Rocky Mountain sunset soaking the horizon of the Front Range, followed by magical fireworks . . . pretty beautiful!

Throughout many New York summers I go to either the main show put on by New York, over the East River, or to Riverside-Hudson River Promenade, to see New Jersey’s fireworks sparkle over the George Washington Bridge.

Seeing fireworks at night is what you do here in America to celebrate the 4th, the independence and freedom we have been blessed with here in these United States.

This year was different, though. Because last summer, fireworks were skipped.

This year, fireworks came back after a curtailment, after a hiatus. They were a resumption. Summer 2020 was a lacuna in the continuity of July 4th’s. Leading up to this recent July 4th, it was said, fireworks were here “once again.”

Whenever anything follows those two words, “once again,” there’s a poignancy to it. Because it implies an absence.

So many stories can take detours and side paths until they “once again” resume. I’ve always noted these words when walking the streets of Jerusalem and thinking of the Prophet Zechariah’s words from thousands of years ago: “There shall, once again, be men and women of ripe old age in the streets of Jerusalem, each with a cane in their hand/And the streets of the city shall be crowded with boys and girls playing in the squares.”

In this case it hasn’t been thousands of years since July 4th fireworks, but it certainly was after thousands of tears. “Once again.”

After a year when “social distancing” became an integrated part of our discourse, after a year of solitude, of masked faces and a year with no crowd gatherings whatever, going to see the “routine” July 4th fireworks felt anything but routine.

Usually, July 4th fireworks signal the launch of summer. This time, they felt like a launch of so much more — a launch back to normal. For now, at least.

Standing there under a tree on the sidewalk in Sutton Place, we were so close to the barges on the East River that we could see the jolts of electricity igniting and fusing as the fireworks were sent upward.

For 25 mesmerizing minutes, bursts of red white and blue sparkles, and gold and purple too, burst and exploded, raining magic on the river. Shooting stars kept rising from the barges, exploding into splintered colors of light.

As we all looked skyward, I took a peek behind me for a moment. Throngs of crowds as far as the eye could see stretched behind me, a good couple of New York City blocks.

It was a perfect New York night, in the 70s. Not too humid. A breeze. And filled with people. People! That which the pandemic taught us — that meeting with people can no longer be taken for granted.

Everything about these mere minutes of eruptions of light over the East River spoke COVID. By not being alone, by not being masked, by not standing apart, it was as though there was a resounding silent shout being uttered by the multitudes: “It’s over!!”

The emotion was palpable. You just sensed people were quietly processing much from this past year.

People teared up. Many held hands or hugged their little loved ones. Euphoric shouting and clapping punctuated the enchanting show, more than usual.

Yet, the moment the fireworks were over, the crowd quietly dispersed. Like it was normal. As though to say, here we are back on track, with a casual New York attitude of, ‘till next year.

Perhaps it was my imagination, but it felt like everyone walked away just a bit slower than usual. After all, it was our July 4th of, “once again.”

Tehilla Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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