July 5, 2010

July 4th: Dover and New York

Driving back to New York from Virginia, I received word that there would be another “dignified transfer,” at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, of Pfc. Ryan J. Grady, 25, US Army, killed Thursday by an improvised explosive device near Bagram airfield.

I decided to go and cover it: July 4th, Independence Day. I arrived early so I explored the empty streets of downtown Dover, where they were preparing for an evening parade and concert. Four miles away, the Air Force C-17 carrying Grady’s body landed and then the ritual this time seemed faster than usual, or maybe I’ve just been there enough times now that it feels quick and awfully predictable. A somber way to spend the holiday: Private Grady was the 1,136th American soldier killed in Afghanistan.

In New York, as on every July 4th, crowds gathered on the Hoboken waterfront to watch the fireworks above the Hudson; in Brooklyn, fire hydrants were opened to cool off the 90 degree-plus heat. Photographer Mark Ovaska reports that “the two scenes couldn’t have been more different: in New Jersey, suburban, middle-class American families came to see the fireworks and left immediately after, while in Williamsburg, young, affluent urban hipsters partied all night.”

–Alan Chin

PHOTOGRAPHS by ALAN CHIN / facingchange.org and MARK OVASKA

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Alan Chin
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