The square

_MG_2352.JPGThe Columbine High School shooting happened when I was 8 years old. I heard somehow that 12 students and one teacher were killed and remember immediately going to my bunk bed and crying for a while. The event was such a horrifying shock for the country that years later we watched a documentary about it in history class during my freshman year of high school. It’s not the same now. The country has experienced several mass shootings in schools and other places during the past few years with more victims than Columbine, sometimes several times more.

One of those shootings killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school last month. Several of the school’s surviving students have since become a political force, pushing Florida to tighten some laws for purchasing guns and calling for marches around the country and beyond. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in them yesterday, including several hundred in a couple parts of northwest Arkansas.

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_MG_2332.JPGMy coworker Ashton Eley reports in today’s paper that more than 400 people gathered for the demonstration in Bentonville’s square, where I took these photos. (And if you want to see more photos, our photographers have a gallery of great stuff.)

Teachers, students, parents, grandparents and others together demanded such policies as providing more complete mental health services in schools, supporting research into gun violence, banning assault-style rifle sales and confiscating guns from domestic abusers (which has some conservative support and happens in several states). Volunteers helped people register to vote, and teenagers coming of voting age swore they would soon wield their votes for the gun-control cause.

Police and sheriff’s deputies meanwhile paced around the square and watched from the surrounding buildings. A few counter-protesters came out, too, including black-clad members of a white nationalist group started by an Arkansas neo-Nazi. Other counter-protesters, including a group in blue called the Freedom Crew, vehemently distanced themselves from such racism and said they were there simply in support of the Second Amendment. Folks on this side of the debate generally see tightening gun laws as burdening a constitutional right or a dangerous limit to personal liberties.

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_MG_2505.JPGThe debate’s an old one, but it does seem different after the Parkland shooting. I’ve seen veterans and doctors speak out about the unique devastation assault-style rifles can inflict on a human body, which I don’t remember before. Others rightly point out complications: School shootings are still rare, and most firearm deaths in this country happen because people turn their firearms on themselves. Many of the youngest among us say they won’t just go to their rooms to cry, that their voices will be part of the debate. We’ll see what happens next.

Dan

Fire and rain

_C1_0718.JPGFireworks still work when it’s raining, if you ever wondered.

This Fourth of July weekend brought a little heat and more humidity to northwest Arkansas, but mostly it brought rain. I had hoped Monday evening to wander around my neighborhood and catch people putting on their own shows, but an approaching storm mostly put a damper on that idea.

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_C1_0265.JPG(Don’t hold Roman candles, by the way.)

Gentle, off-and-on rain lasted through Tuesday evening, forcing the crowd at Bentonville’s huge Orchards Park to clump under umbrellas, gazebos and their folding chairs.

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_C1_0338.JPGAfter half an hour of this with no slowing in the rainfall, the show began anyway, triumphantly exploding in the darkness without a preliminary word from the organizers. The bombs vaporized the falling water, shrouding their streamers in a dramatic cloak of steam and smoke. I like to evoke space or the deep ocean with firework shots, and this nebula of mist didn’t hurt.

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_C1_0745.JPGIt was a great show as always, and these photos don’t do it complete justice. You might see a metaphor in the fact that it went on undiminished by the weather. In any case, I hope the country’s 241st birthday was a good one for you, too.

Thanks for looking.

The Big 240

_C1_6959.JPGLast year I called fireworks urchins and corals, but after trying out the zoomed-in schtick again for the show at Bentonville’s Orchards Park, the imagery I had in mind was more cosmic. Stars flashed in and out of existence and competed for space as short-lived comets drifted through smoky nebulae and inky darkness. The smoke from a thousand more displays hung like a veil over the entire drive back to Fayetteville. Happy national 240th birthday, everybody. And thanks for lookin’.

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