O say can you see…?

The shot that almost got away, but didn’t. (James Figy/The Reporter-Times)

Yesterday, I covered the Mooresville fireworks celebration at Pioneer Park. I did this last year, too, when I was an intern for The Reporter-Times. But this year they didn’t need a story, just photos.

Since I was simply taking photos, I wanted to get some good shots. But there was one shot in particular that I wanted to get—the shot that got away. The one for which I was willing to sacrifice life and limb.

At the Mooresville fireworks celebration, they honor the flag in an unconventional—and better-than-conventional—way. It’s not like other festivals where they merely take down the flag when it gets dark and fold it up while everyone stands in silence, then get on with the real show. No, the flag ceremony is its own spectacle.

The Pioneers have a troop of parachuters fly in with four different flags—the POW-MIA, Colts, Indiana state, and lastly Old Glory herself. They land one after the other as someone on the main stage belts out the Star Spangled Banner over the PA system.

Last year, I was on the opposite side of the park from where the parachuters landed. The photos I took, or tried to take, showed tiny, blurry specks of red and blue. But you couldn’t make out what they were. You couldn’t see them in their Uncle Sam-eating-an-apple pie  glory. No, these images weren’t patriotic enough. They were a disgrace to the nation, to all that is good and striped.

So this year, I showed up early and kept a vigilant eye on the sky. I scoped out the park, and spotted the hidden landing strip. It was camouflaged as a large roped-off portion of grass with a gigantic X in the middle of it. A clever disguise!

The parachuters were set to land at 9 p.m., and as the clock ticked towards 9:15, I started to get nervous. The local cover band had been jamming “Brick House” for the past 10 minutes, so I think they’d exhausted their set list and probably were more eager than I was.

Then it happened: the roaring propellor, the the shimmering glint of hope approaching like an All-American Godot.

Four dark dots appeared overhead and started to grow. The crowd went nuts. But not me: It was go time. I had my camera in hand and aimed up, trying to focus, trying to watch their descent. They circled around overhead, gliding past each other, and at points I thought they would collide.

First one down was the POW-MIA. I snapped a quick five or so, and did the same for the Colts, then the Indiana flags. But I was too far forward, and couldn’t get the angle I wanted. So as the American flag bored down on me, coming in hot and patriotic, I jumped heroically back. I sprinted. I ignored the shouting of the police. I ignored my own personal safety, and as it sailed in, I leapt 12 feet into the air and snapped furiously. “Move shutter! Move!” I yelled. And although I dashed my head and camera against the asphalt, I still had the satisfaction of knowing that I’d honored my country. Everyone clapped and clapped, and I knew they were clapping for me as much as the parachuters. Six months later, when I woke up in a hospital bed—

Well, I don’t have time for the whole story right now, but it went kind of like that. I declare independence from you naysayers who say “nay” to my account. To you I say, “Let’s just let history be the judge.”

Yes, maybe I took a few liberties, but what else is the Fourth of July about?


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