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When I was growing up in New York City, I remember going to a place in Rye, NY for the 4th of July fireworks. A quick online search tells me that Rye Playland is still going strong, and has been providing family fun for 80 years!

I think the pre-Playland festivities included me and my siblings waving some sparklers around, and we may have even set off a few fireworks. It all seemed very magical. I loved the fireworks back then, and still do.

But things have changed. While many families leave fireworks to the professionals and attend organized events, there are others who feel the holiday isn’t complete without setting off tons of explosions in their own front yard.

If people did this responsibly…if it was safe…perhaps I wouldn’t feel so tired of it all. But year after year it seems the safety factor has gone out the window, and just like with movie special effects, when it comes to home fireworks displays – bigger is DEFINITELY better!

In Oregon, anything that goes over 12 inches high, travels 6 feet along the ground, or makes a “bang” is illegal. Of course, this is essentially a meaningless law, because people go out of state and buy whatever they want. Well-intentioned efforts to “crack down” on illegal fireworks are ineffective – there just isn’t any way to control this.

Here’s the problem. I live in the woods. If you look at an aerial view of the property it looks like someone dropped a few homes into the middle of a national forest. Granted, the mall is two miles down the road, but outside my front door it looks like a little slice of heaven. The deer still stroll down the street, rabbits run through the grass, and birdsong fills the forest.

It’s hard to imagine someone would want to jeopardize this, but that’s just what happened this year when new residents to the neighborhood set off an arsenal of illegal fireworks in their front yard and projected them into the woods…INTO THE WOODS! It was like sitting in the front row of a horrifying war movie. This went on for many, many hours, over two nights.

I swear – this show was as good as something you’d get at a local event. However, at such an event there would be a fire truck handy, and the fireworks would be set off in a safe area, far away from trees, homes or anything combustible.

My cats were terrified. I closed windows and shades, turned on televisions, and did everything I could to soothe the poor critters. It was one of the few times I was glad my dog, Jake, was happily flying through the starry skies, for he would have been out of his mind with fear.

This little scenario was repeated over and over, in neighborhoods throughout the area. And now companion animals are missing, and animal shelters are overflowing with critters who, by no fault of their own, are waiting…hoping…that their families will come to bring them home.

I’m still struggling with the grief over losing my beautiful neighborhood. I have lived here in peace for over 17 years with all the other people who gravitated to this special location. Attending the organized 4th of July celebrations is a thing of the past – someone needs to stay back and watch over our homes and the woodlands.

It is a far cry from my younger, innocent days.


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