The picture has nothing to do with the story except a storm coming across Lake Erie….
We were gathered outside on a warm early August evening waiting for the show to begin. August! It was just so weird to my young brain to be waiting for fireworks in August. The Fourth of July seemed a million years away, lost in some foggy past, so why were we having Fourth of July fireworks?
People all up and down lake Erie still talk about the Fourth of July Storm of ’69. Many of the lakefront towns sustained major damage. 42 people died and over a quarter of a million were without power. There were sustained winds of over 100 mph. The flooding and devastation were unimaginable.
I was with my brother and some friends in the schoolyard just a short distance from our house on that fateful National Holiday. We had climbed onto the backstop of the baseball diamond (well, the big kids did, I tried) to get a better view of the expected fireworks. And fireworks arrived – lightning rained down on the town creating great sparks as transformers, trees and houses were hit.
The run home against the wind was the scariest time of my young life. There were times I felt I couldn’t move, like I was being blown backwards by that 100 mph wind. Yes, at five I was pretty light and perhaps I could have been blown away. Back home we stayed inside and watched the lightning dance and the trees fall.
A million years later, on that warm August evening, we were waiting for those long delayed fireworks to begin. Just as it was beginning to get dark a fireball appeared overhead. It streaked across the sky seeming to follow the curvature of the Earth before it disappeared out of site. The few people there clapped and whistled. What a great start of the show! But it wasn’t. More people arrived and finally, 15 minutes later, the real firework show began. I assumed it was something special the town did to try to make up for the long delay. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that it was impossible – no fireworks exist that loos anything like the fireball.
As an adult I always assumed it was just a dream. I have strange memories from my early childhood that I know aren’t really true, just misinterpretations based on suggestions and my imagination as much as fact. But this seemed so different since it was etched so clearly in my mind.
It was perhaps 40 years after the events when I was with my brother and we were chatting about asteroids, meteors and such hitting the Earth. I asked if he remembered the “Fourth of July” fireball, which was actually in August. He then described it exactly as I remembered it. It was etched in his seven year old mind as strongly as it was in my five year old mind, only he was old enough to know it wasn’t part of the fireworks display. It was real, it did happen.
What was it? I’ve searched for reports of one that night, but have always come up zip. Still, I guess it was a big meteor or fireball. All I know is that I’ve never seen anything like it since.
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Yes, more random memories from my very early childhood…..