10 July 2020

Sleepless In Seattle?

I'm curious. Do you live in or near a big city? Maybe NYC or LA? If so, do you have a strong opinion about fireworks right now?

And by *fireworks* I don't mean the Independence day, everyone cheering when they light up the sky variety. I mean the every-thirty-minutes-keeps-you-up-all-night kind of fireworks.

Are you exhausted?  Cranky? Confused?

Have you called the [insert: police, fire department, congressman, shrink, other authority] to complain and hopefully make it stop so you can go back to sleep?

One thing's for sure, complaints are way up in 2020 versus this time in previous years.

Lucky for me, from my sleepy suburban vantage point, we've only had a few incidences of late-night pyrotechnics that could probably be attributed to beer-induced July 4th warm-ups. But I understand many, many friends and family members residing in larger cities across the USA have been singing the insomnia blues for weeks. And still are.

New York City ~ Chicago ~ Los Angeles ~ San Francisco ~ Boston ~ Denver ~ Philadelphia

Hmmmm, a modern-day mystery to be solved. Whodunit? And maybe even more compelling, whydunit?

Color me--a writer and reader of crime fiction--invested.

For the past few weeks, I've scoured social media feeds, googled news articles, watched YouTube interviews, and checked in with friends who live in or near those cities. Word from my daily scrolling is that these all-night fireworks aren't being hailed as celebratory (Independence Day traditional and amateur shows notwithstanding), as much as ominous.

I ruled out the run-of-the-mill illegal fireworks shenanigans from collectors who are bored with the pandemic's shelter-in-place orders, because too many cities were being inundated simultaneously across the country and the onslaught was so relentless.

Were said pyros honoring the front line workers who still battle against the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite varying levels of lock downs?

Are they resulting from the Black Lives Matter protests? Or counter-protests?  I ruled this theory out when I learned that fireworks sales spiked two weeks before George Floyd's murder.

Are they some other kind of coordinated protest?  I steered clear of the mounting conspiracy theories ranging from the fireworks displays covering up actual gunfire and a government attacks, all of which flirt with paranoia.

Even weeks later, no one seems to know for sure, nor has any group claimed responsibility. If only we knew who and why, then authorities could attempt to assuage the onslaught. For now, we are a captive, involuntary audience.

And then it hit me...

As a writer who lives and dies by generating suspense in my fiction, I'm reluctantly impressed with these faceless antagonists. They hooked me with their nocturnal coordinated attacks (minus the loud explosions, because kids, pets and those suffering from PTSD are in hell). I can't stop researching and questioning.

But isn't that what we crime writers strive for with every story we write?  To keep our readers in suspense so they can't sleep at night for wanting and needing more information? To follow every stray clue to somehow solve the impossible riddle? To ultimately find relief in the answers.

As they say, the suspense is killing me.  Do you have any theories about these  fireworks?

PS ~ Let's be social:


  1. I live two hours from Seattle in a small city (90,000) that banned fireworks. They have never been worse than this year. My theory is simple: The jerks are feeling restless and supported.

  2. I live south of Seattle in unincorporated King County where fireworks are legal. They're illegal in the cities surrounding my area. Any guesses about who had to listen to fireworks starting July 2 until July 6? People I haven't heard from in months were asking to come "visit me" and bring along fireworks to celebrate.

    My theory: They were bored and needed an excuse to leave the house. Oh, and make a bunch of noise to celebrate leaving the house.

  3. Illegal here as well but the cities put up big shows, which only encourages everyone else to put up their own show. When I was a cop we saw injuries every year, some bad. Retired now, I feed feral animals in the small town I live across the lake from New Orleans and they are terrified, as well as our indoor cats. People making explosions just to be heard. People like to see pretty lights.

  4. I agree with Rob - they're restless and feel supported.
    Fireworks are legal here, so there was no sense in calling anyone about it. And they ran from July 2-July 6th. Finally, mostly silence. Could be worse. I had a friend in Virginia, whose neighbor had a cannon and loved to shoot it for the 4th. (With trash, not cannonballs, thank God)

  5. I live in Buffalo, in Erie County where fireworks are illegal, but I have had to listen to them every night since around the time George Floyd was killed. The president of our block club asked one person to stop setting off fireworks, because he wasn't going to call the police. The situation improved a little.

    Eve, I knew a man in Virginia with a Civil War cannon in his front yard, which he shot on July 4th! He was a dentist by profession & made his own gunpowder.

  6. I'm in the Ballard section of Seattle and the booms were constant for a few days, and mostly at night. For some reason it didn't bother me much.

  7. You are sooooo fortunate. Florida, home of Little Havana, Little Managua, Little Tegucigalpa, and Little San Juan has a reputation of shooting off celebratory live ammo, but that's a little unfair because the redneck bar not far from me fires off a few rounds because… America.

    So every year, sheriffs and police chiefs in Floria ask, plead, beg residents not to shoot off their guns and their mouths, especially when well lubricated with spirts. People do get hit by incoming, like Delray Beach this year.

    That woman killed by gunfire in North Carolina… Maybe Durham is a bit of a stretch from Jacksonville, but Floridans love to vacation in the Carolinas when everyone else is visiting the Sunshine State, well… I wouldn't be surprised if a Floridian is some way responsible. Just sayin'.


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