For years when I lived near Annapolis I thought I wanted to be on the National Mall to see the Fourth of July Fireworks. Surely, they would be greater than the average display, something on par with the Weasley brothers' display in Order of the Phoenix. And the crowds would be remarkable and dynamic, the experience thrilling!
Well, we didn't go down to the Mall tonight, because it would be a long walk on a very hot day. Instead, we watched from the end of Arlington Ridge Road, where there's a small park that overlooks 395. From there we had a full view of all the monuments along the Mall, the Pentagon and the airplanes landing at National Airport, and of course, the fireworks exploding over all of it.
As it got on towards nine pm, cars began to park along the highway below us, first a single row on the shoulder, then double parked in the far right lane, then triple parked across most of the road. The hillside around us filled up and police helicopters circled, just in case. As dusk fell we could see small explosions of sparkling lights on the far horizon, likely fireworks displays in nearby suburbs of DC. The Mall fireworks themselves were not any different or more beautiful than those I had seen in the past. I suspect that physically being on the Mall makes all the difference.
In the photo (from my phone, hence low-quality) you can see the Washington Monument to the right of the fireworks.
On the way home and late into the evening local North Virginians set off screaming rockets and snapping crackers, accompanied by the crackle of the nearby Arlington display finishing up for the evening. The scent of exploded firecrackers wafted across town and down the street before blowing away down river.
If I had a camera with me then I would show you... Sometime towards the middle of all the explosions and lights, a plane flew between our vantage point and the Mall, silhouetted against the flying sparks, briefly, before fading back into the dark night sky.