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‘Live Free or Die’ an endangered notion

Apart from what was happening in the Boston area, something profoundly troubling happened in Jaffrey last week. The town’s chamber of commerce announced the Festival of Fireworks would be “cancelled for good.”

Like many of you, the events of the last week took my family on a roller coaster ride. We started with the horror of the marathon attack and then spent the rest of the week watching the manhunt unfold. Friday evening saw the incredible and remarkably quick apprehension of the second suspect. As bad as the losses and injuries were, there were many high notes. We watched heroism from both first responders and ordinary citizens. We saw the community and even the country pull together in true USA form.

Many will recall that just a few days before last year’s Jaffrey festival event, letters were sent from a disturbed person suggesting a bomb threat. With the letter arriving so close to the event, the only prudent thing to do was to call it off. Months later, no arrests have been made and police don’t appear to have any viable leads.

When I saw this past week that a decision had been made to cancel the event permanently, I was shocked; and my shock has transitioned to huge disappointment. Is this our new normal? Are we agreeing to acquiesce our freedom to the few nut jobs among us? Really? Is the ‘Live Free or Die’ state now the ‘Run Scared and Let’s Be Bullied’ state? We’re better than this.

The event has been a tradition for over two decades, with recent events drawing over 30,000 people, largely families that come from far and wide.

Two punks made a statement in Boston on April 15. New Hampshire ought to make a statement of its own this August.

I have a feeling that outreach to military and police from throughout the region would uncover plenty of patriotic people willing to donate some time to help make this happen. The chamber, which underwrites the event, could offer some sort of profit sharing to these who donate time (i.e. if the event goes well, officers that donate time would receive some compensation).

It seems like some out-of-the-box thinking is called for here so that the 2011 festival is not the last. The planned date for this year’s event is August 17. As a community, we have a few months to figure this out. If we don’t, we will have lost something much bigger than a few hours of junk food and fireworks.

Mark Stein lives in Rindge.

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