Fireworks are an essential part of Independence Day. It’s right there in John Adams’ letter to his wife, Abigail. The day after the Continental Congress voted to declare independence from England, our first vice president, our second president and one of our most important Founding Fathers wrote that in addition to being commemorated “as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty,” the occasion “ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
And so it was, on July 4, 1777, and every year since.
But that doesn’t mean that everybody should set off fireworks in their backyard.
In the hands of amateurs, fireworks can be quite dangerous. A Cheraw man was killed and another seriously injured last year while they were shooting off fireworks on the Fourth of July. Nationally, at least five people were killed from fireworks injuries last year — and 9,100 were treated in emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries. And the damage isn’t confined to the people who choose to participate in these personal celebrations.
Although they may be launched from your own property, they don’t always land there. When they come down, they can cause a fire and leave litter in your neighbors’ yards and on the streets. (Dorchester County prohibits discharging fireworks onto someone else’s property without their permission.)
The sound that accompanies most fireworks can be traumatizing for our neighbors with post-traumatic stress disorder and other sensitivities — many of whom are the very veterans who have fought to maintain our independence.
Fireworks can be equally traumatic to pets. (And if you have outdoor pets, please bring them inside so they aren’t frightened into running away and either getting lost or getting killed in the street.)
So even if you insist on having your own private fireworks display, please consider ending it early.
Although South Carolina has some of the most liberal state fireworks laws in the nation, and Charleston County and several other communities do allow them, the city of Charleston doesn’t allow anything more explosive than sparklers; the beaches ban them as well.
The good news is that we can all enjoy amazing pyrotechnic displays without traumatizing our neighbors, endangering the lives of pets, littering other people’s property and injuring ourselves: The Charleston area is blessed with spectacular displays, courtesy of Patriots Point, the city of North Charleston, the Charleston RiverDogs, Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island and more.
Although we focus on the independence the Founding Fathers declared on July 4, 1776, the fact is that this wasn’t something they declared or achieved independently. Our independence was won by people working together toward a common goal, in community.
The nation that was borne by this communal work remains the greatest in the world a remarkable 243 years later because of countless men and women working together to preserve it.
What better way to celebrate the birthday of our remarkable experiment in self-governance than in community, at a public fireworks display that no backyard shoot-off could ever match.