To enjoy the beauty of the Macy's July 4th fireworks, you must face the ugliness of fighting your way through the crowds to get into position.
We headed westward across 42nd Street at about 7 pm on July 4th. Most of those planning to watch the fireworks show from the street were already camped out and the streets and sidewalks west of 11th Avenue were packed. We gingerly stepped around picnics and strollers and drunken singalongs as we made our way toward the corner of 12th Avenue, where a Circle Line representative was set to meet us.
Things didn't get ugly until just west of 11th Avenue. Most of the street and sidewalk had been cordoned off as viewing area, leaving only narrow passageways for the hundreds of bodies trying to pass through. At the corner of 12th Avenue and 42nd Street, barricades and NYPD officers blocked the crowd from spilling onto the West Side Highway.
It was a similar set-up in 2009. Those with tickets to events or venues west of the barricades had to present their credentials to pass and it went fairly smoothly.
Unfortunately, the scene was much more chaotic in 2010. Throngs of people were trying to shove their way through the narrow passageway toward the West Side Highway. At the same time, crowds were being turned back at the barricades and shoving their way back in the other direction through the same narrow space. This quickly caused a huge bottleneck of sweaty people, which led to anger and frustration and shoving.
Luckily, my photographer is tall and aggressive. I clung to his backpack as he pushed his way through the chaos. I was buffeted by backpacks, poked by elbows, clawed at from behind, and snagged by a stroller that tried to take my shirt along for the ride.
When we finally emerged on the other side of the barricade, my shirt was shredded in three places from the battle.