Post-storm sky lights up

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Fireworks exploded above the Washington Monument right on schedule last night, taking no pause after an early evening of thunderstorms and threat of tornados.

Crowds oohed and ahhed as bursts of red, white and blue and a rainbow of other colors exploded into the night sky to celebrate the nation’s 231st birthday.

“A star,” shrieked 7-year-old Amber Maisey, as she watched, wide-eyed and perched atop her father Michael Maisey’s shoulders.

The Philadelphia family was among many who stopped in their tracks along the Mall’s gravel walkways when the first drumroll-like pops sounded from above.

People snapped pictures with digital cameras and cell phones as stars and smiley faces took shape among the colorful flashes.

The finale featured rapid explosion after explosion, accompanied for those on the West Lawn of the Capitol by the National Symphony Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.”

Two members of the crew who put on the fireworks were injured after the show was over, when leftover fireworks exploded while they were working, said Sgt. Robert Lachance, a U.S. Park Police spokesman.

Nobody else was injured.

The two men, ages 42 and 46, were working in the fire pit. One was taken by helicopter to a hospital with burns. The other was being treated and evaluated on the scene.

Severe weather forced a two-hour evacuation of the Mall, but it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.

John and Alice Martin of Fort White, Fla., were decked out in red, white and blue, American-flag patterned polo shirts and matching hats.

The couple brought their 10-year-old adopted son, Matthew, to see his first fireworks in Washington.

“It’s the only place on Earth to be,” said Mrs. Martin, 59. “Wherever I am, I always feel like I’m in the wrong place if it’s not D.C.”

At about 2:30 p.m., the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch until 10 p.m. for the District and parts of Maryland and Virginia. Parts of Montgomery and Fairfax counties were under separate tornado watches that ended earlier in the evening.

Park Police closed the security checkpoints on the Mall at 5 p.m. and told everyone to leave as dark clouds gathered and winds picked up. Thousands scurried to nearby museums and government buildings to wait out the storm.

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