In the summer of 2007, my girlfriend and I went to my hometown's (the quiet, little town of Vienna, VA, best known for the Russian spy Robert Hanssen) Independence Day fireworks. Her parents were planning on meeting us there. Vienna's Independence Day celebration is known for being one of the most intimate fireworks displays in the area, and was always a good time to see old friends who I no longer played little league with, nor rode the bus to high school with. I ran into a friend I've had since I was 3 at this, but under the most unfortunate of circumstances to meet someone under.

Me and my girlfriend had decided to walk to the fireworks, as it was a beautiful summer night, but we got a late start, and were still walking down Park Street with 3 blocks left to go as the fireworks got underway. We had, at this point, given up on catching up with her parents before the fireworks, and we tried to call them to tell them that we'd meet them later.

The fireworks were spectacular, as usual, until 5 minutes from the end. As the finale was starting, something I had never seen happened. Fireworks shot parallel to the ground. One flew into the dugout of the softball field at our community center. Another one flew towards the community center's playground, full of many young kids and parents.

At this point, everyone's mind was not on the fireworks anymore, but onto the fact that mortars blasted into the crowd. The rest of the fireworks was a blur. Me and my girlfriend were frantically trying to reach her parents, but could not reach them. We quickly found my family, as a swarm of ambulances descended on Vienna.

Eventually, the local firefighters started clearing the field. My old friend John, now working as a firefighter, was screaming at people to move:

A helicopter is coming!

My family stayed there and tried to figure out what was going on. My girlfriend and I walked home. She was worried about her parents, and still couldn't reach them, so she drove home. Luckily, her parents were fine.

The next day, I found out via my brother John that a mortar had exploded and had badly burnt a mother and her infant, and given a penetrating brain injury to the mother's 8 year old kid. Luckily, their father had been at home. All this from summer fun. Independence Day won't be the same in Vienna again.

In the end, this turned out to be similar to Apollo 13. The fireworks had been manufactured in china, and had been defective. There had been problems caused by these defective fireworks throughout the United States.

A month later, tragedy struck again. In my quiet little neighborhood, the silence was broken by a loud bang, and the ensuing fire engines. Later, the now-familiar whirr of a helicopter ruined the beautiful summer day. Two 10 year olds had been playing on the vacant lot abutting Midgetville, right behind my house, with a bottle rocket. This said bottle rocket blew up in their faces.

None of this may have made national news, but it's still tragic. There are kids whose lives are drastically different now, all due to innocently celebrating the birth of our country, and just wanting to have fun.