Fireworks perfectly cap memorable Fourth

July 06, 2002|By JACQUES KELLY

BECAUSE I'VE always been sentimental about celebrating Independence Day, I thought a good way to cure any post-Sept. 11 jitters would be to go to New York. And if ever there were a day to celebrate this country and what we stand for, this sizzling Fourth of July delivered the goods.

I made my pilgrimage the way my grandfather, Edward Jacques Monaghan, led me to the Statue of Liberty a little less than 50 years ago. As we traveled through the New York harbor, Pop showed me the buildings, the wharves, the train terminals, the ferry boats, the freighters and passenger liners and, of course, the tug boats. His explanation was a wonderful introduction to the might and strength of New York.

This week, I took a similar route, on a $3 ferry ride from Jersey City, N.J., that took me across the Hudson to the 38th Street piers in Manhattan. I also rode the local light rail line to Bayonne, whose route also affords some excellent views of Lady Liberty.

In the middle of the morning I had some time to just look across the water and think about the World Trade Center and the loss of life. The skyline of lower Manhattan appeared perfect, but I kept asking, what is wrong with this view? Where are the towers?

My memory darted back to trips I made to Ground Zero last fall, when there was still a cloud hanging over the site. On a July morning, there was no more airborne pulverized debris. Nevertheless, standing about a half-mile away on the New Jersey shoreline, I could visualize the buildings.

A ferry boat ticket seller named Lourdes reminded me that last September I would not have been allowed to stand on the nicely redeveloped quay. This spot, which reminded me of the landscaped walks along our Inner Harbor, was used as a temporary hospital. The injured were ferried across the Hudson to New Jersey.

I decided it was time to move on. And, once again, if I was going to celebrate the Fourth of July, why do it halfway? When my train got to Philadelphia, I stood up and got off. A friendly baggage agent shipped my suitcase ahead to Baltimore, so I could visit Independence Hall unencumbered. It was so hot I opted for a short, drive-by version. But it was heartening to see so many people running around, doing what I was doing, unafraid of conspiracy theories and imagined threats.

Then I boarded another train and arrived in Baltimore where I viewed our city's tribute to the Fourth from a friend's packed roof terrace on St. Paul Street. Even after a trip to New York, Baltimore looked impressive, a city joyously celebrating our national day.

Indeed, there was the main act of fireworks over the harbor. But there were many other shows, too. Someone seems to have lighted up Redwood Street - could it have been Calvert or South Street? - with a display of pyrotechnics that made the downtown buildings look like their roofs had sparklers attached to the elevator equipment.

Then the shows began in the distance - in what looked like Catonsville, Arbutus, Reisterstown, Dundalk and what appeared to be a hundred houses and backyards from Essex to Columbia. It was indeed a true, old-fashioned Fourth.

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