Friday, July 4, 2008

More Than Fireworks

It is an experience you won’t forget. Sure you will remember the fireworks going off from Navy Pier, and the bright reflections cast on the surface of Lake Michigan on a cloudless night. Sure you will remember the hundreds of boats docked in the lake. You will also remember how happy you were for bringing a heavy coat, gloves, and a hat. Or, in my case, wish you had more than a T-shirt and jeans as you sat there freezing on a windy night that felt more like November than July.

You will also remember the hundreds of thousands of people gathered for miles along the lakefront to celebrate the festival. Many of them, you will recall, are families, couples, or friends, drinking, eating and enjoying the event. You will also remember the large masses of loud teenagers acting obnoxious after the fireworks ended.

It took me more than two hours to get home on the train and bus due to the large crowds last night after the fireworks. Luckily, I made it home in one piece. There was a shooting in the area where I had walked to catch the train. One teenager was killed and three others were hospitalized. It was the third shooting in five years in the area around the Taste of Chicago and the Fourth of July fireworks. The Taste is a free annual festival in Grant Park offering cuisine from more than 60 local restaurants as well as live entertainment. It is the world’s largest food festival and lasts 10 days (starting Friday before the Fourth of July and ending the Sunday after). Unfortunately, the event seems to attract lots of annoying teenagers and thugs, such as the ones I saw last night. I saw a young man get arrested inside the train terminal as well as a couple of teenagers after a fight broke out in the street. In all, 25 people were arrested last night around the event. But like most people, all I wanted to do was take some photos and enjoy the fireworks. It is a shame that during the time our country should be so proud, I am reminded of the obvious failings. This year in Chicago there is a 13 percent rise in the murder rate (Through June, Chicago had 229 murders compared to 203 for the same period last year). There has also been a rise in New York (250 murders compared to 231 for the same period in 2007) and Los Angeles, according to police department statistics.

Tonight I’ll enjoy the Fourth of July inside my bedroom.