SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Towns all across the United States lit up with fireworks displays Thursday to pay homage to the nation's birth on July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed. But whenever pyrotechnics are involved, accidents are never far behind. Injuries and property damage from poorly staged events regularly make the news each year. That's why the strangest Fourth of July story involves a group of foreign tourists who accidentally ended up in the middle of a gang war in Los Angeles, but found the standoff stimulating, historically educational and absent any injuries or chaos.
In Simi Valley, Calif., 28 people were injured during the annual festivities around 9:15 p.m. when the accidental detonation of the displays caused explosions in the crowd. Authorities believe at least one of the mortar stations fell over, aiming the fiery projectiles directly into the hapless onlookers. San Diego's celebration went smoothly, but last year the entire stock of fireworks ignited all at once, leading to an anticlimactic burst of flames. And in Windsor, Colo., sparks set off a large grass fire.
Some event organizers claim injuries are to be expected and honor the spirit of Independence Day, which culminated in the Revolutionary War and massive bloodshed.
"Freedom isn't free," quipped San Narciso Police Department spokesperson Ren Williams. "And in many cases, these spectacles are not incident-free. There was a time when average citizens and homesteaders were willing to lay down their lives to protest British oppression, to throw off the shackles of European servitude. So I feel that a July 4 without a few scrapes, bruises and second-degree burns is a bit of a let down."
The tourists lost in LA were actually en route to San Narciso for the county's unique "America's Independence from International Co-dependence Day" salute. Local officials call it the only honest American celebration.
Tennis, golf and soccer are banned in the parks. Baseball, football and all manner of land- and water-based vehicle contests take the spotlight instead.
Likewise, the musical venue excludes songs by The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, Radiohead, The Kinks, The Who, Mumford and Sons, Oasis, The Clash, Amy Winehouse, M.I.A, Gorillaz, Fleetwood Mac, Moody Blues, The Specials, Elton John, The Cure, T-Rex, Eric Clapton, Queen and David Bowie, to name a few. And because most American rock and roll is based on African-inspired blues, the bands invited to perform instead regale the crowd with rousing sets of military marches.
Fireworks, originated in 10th century China, are also be stricken from the celebrations for obvious reasons. Instead, restored Revolutionary War cannons fire volleys into a reproduction of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. This nighttime portion of the show, which also serves as the grand finale, concludes with the burning of a 100-foot replica of the Downing Street Memo; the public is always encouraged to participate in the destruction of this effigy.
"There was a delegation of Irish and Pakistani tourists who expressed strong interest in our all-American tribute," San Narciso Mayor Manny DiPresso said. "Somehow, their bus took a wrong turn, probably around the North Viaduct area, and ended up in a very unsavory part of Los Angeles. Boyle Heights, I believe."
But members of the group, prior to their rescue by officers from LAPD's Hollenbeck Division, thought they were watching a typical July 4 event.
"When we got there, we were immediately impressed by the war reenactment," said Bilal Pitafi, the representative leading the visitors from Pakistan. "It seemed so very American. People of different races were fighting for their right to control territory that each claimed dominion over. Then they started shooting, which was very dramatic. Everybody had a gun. Because in America, everybody must carry a firearm. The blood looked quite real, too. And they all represented a variety of religions, which is also a big part of America's melting pot. We saw all manner of iconic holy jewelry -- there were crucifixes, crescents and stars, iron crosses, svastikas and even some Satanic pentagrams. This is what makes America great, yes?"
When the firefight broke out, the tourists applauded, believing the violence to be part of a fireworks type show. Some spectators with prior military experience in Northern Ireland and Pakistan took notes for future celebrations in their homelands. The Irish delegation called the turf war "stirring and patriotic," but expressed disappointment at missing the simulated attacks on Parliament that were taking place in San Narciso.
Interestingly, police reported that none of the tourists sustained any injuries from the gunfire, knives, raping or hand-to-hand combat. The gang members taken into custody called their unexpected visitors "polite, enthusiastic and eager to learn."
2013. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. See disclaimers.