Sunday, January 7, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 7, 2001

Who's to blame for aerial that killed Lillian?

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

It’s been said before about a long list of dangers: What’s it going to take? Does somebody have to die before we do something to stop this?

Well, somebody did die because of the New Year’s fireworks insanity, and it wasn’t some yahoo taking apart Roman candles and packing the powder into a PVC pipe. It was an innocent elderly woman.

Who did it? No one in Palolo is talking. But if you bought illegal aerials and set them off in your neighborhood with no thought as to where the shower of sparks was falling, aren’t you just as guilty as the person who lit the fuse that started the blaze that killed Lillian Herring? You had the same deadly weapon. You fired the same deadly shot. You just got lucky you missed.

And you thought it was fun.

New Year’s in Hawaii has become a time of wilding.

Ordinarily responsible people turn into pyromaniacs, all for the thrill of the big bang. It goes far beyond religious, cultural or traditional celebrating. We become a community aflame, a place without rules, a people with little regard for consequences.

What’s it going to take to bring some sanity to all this? Legislation? Our politicians are too worried about the next election. Enforcement? How can the police possibly make arrests in a crime that takes just seconds to commit and leaves little evidence?

It’s going to take us, all of us regular folks who don’t want our houses to burn, don’t want our dogs to go mental, don’t want our fathers to be rushed to the emergency room with an asthma attack, and don’t want to hear of another child losing a finger or an eye or a hand or a life. Not again.

I don’t think we need the extreme measure of a total ban on fireworks, but somewhere along the line, maybe we’ve forgotten that fireworks, from little sparklers to the big bombs, are inherently dangerous and should be treated with care. Perhaps that care means making sure the kids on your street are supervised and cautious. Perhaps that means taking the extraordinary step of talking story with the guy down the street who year after year makes you nervous with the cannons he shoots off. That sort of thing should happen before somebody else dies, not afterward.

There are ways to enjoy fireworks for religious and cultural purposes that don’t threaten life and property. There are ways to simply enjoy fireworks for no other reason than they’re fun, without killing people or blowing off body parts. But we can’t rely on the folks at the top to take care of this. We’re the ones in the battle zone.

If you watched with horror as the neighbor kids tossed Black Cats closer and closer to the parked cars, if you prayed for safe passage trying to drive through the smoke and explosions to get home before midnight, if you stood watch outside your houses with a garden hose, then it’s time to start talking. It’s up to us to take back the night on our own streets.

Lee Cataluna’s column runs on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Her e-mail address is

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