Fireworks and Football Jesus

by Anna Blanch on July 17, 2012

My early childhood memories center around this typical American country store and life in a small American town, including 4th of July celebrations marked by fireworks and patriotic music played from a pavilion bandstand. – Frederick Reines

It will be celebrated with pomp and parade… bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other – John Adams

What would a 4th of July be without fireworks?

While we didn’t experience many of the trappings of the fourth of july, like hot dogs and burgers or tubing or a nice cold one swimming in a pond or laughing with family and friends, we certainly got our fill of fireworks. Indeed, as the sun set bright orange, we started to see small flashes. Slowly as night set in and we got closer to major cities, like Lincoln and Chicago, we could see fireworks displays to the left and right of the plane. Indeed, we saw fireworks from Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

By this point we needed a little pep, so Katy Perry’s “Firework” was part of the soundtrack for this little part of the journey.

Actually, it was remarkable to see how difficult it is to pick out an airport runway at night when there are fireworks going off — a few of the other pilots (mainly commercial) were commenting on this over the radio.

As we came in to land in South Bend, Indiana, so we could fuel up and check the weather, there were fireworks going off on both sides of the runway approach – some no more than 200ft from the wing tip. While it could have been frightening, it was more a spectacle and an experience than anything else. Although if there was supposed to be an exclusion zone, they weren’t enforcing it! We could here a little radio chatter as pilots, including K, were mentioning how difficult it was to identify airports and runways amidst the festive flashing lights!

We landed at 11:15pm local time. The tower closed at midnight and so we could have attempted to try and fuel up quickly and take off again before the tower closed for the night, but it would have been tight.

Earlier, when we had landed at Pueblo, K had seen some troubling weather in Michigan and it wasn’t the kind of thing that we should fly into without getting a further weather briefing. There’s also some rules about how much gas you need in reserve when you are flying at night and so after some deliberation and realising that we had been travelling for 12.5 hours, we took the FBO at South Bend up on their offer of a crew car and the use of their pilot’s lounge to take a shower, get some food, and get a few hours of sleep.

K and I have never been so happy to see a 24 hour fast food restaurant (this is only a couple of days after we discussed how much neither of us likes fast food) – we were hungry for something to fill us up and pickings are slim after midnight!


This is the sixth post in a series tracing a journey from California to Michigan in a 1967 Piper Comanche.


Listening. Observing. Participating. Writing. Photographing. Reflecting.

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Traveller. Scholar. Photographer. Writer. Dreamer. Teacher. Anna Blanch is founder of Goannatree, and a PhD candidate in the Institute of Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, Scotland. The summer of 2012 is a nomadic summer for Anna as she edits her Phd and chases the sun after three cold years in Scotland!

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