The threat of lightning caused an unusual evacuation of thousands of people on the Esplanade on Wednesday night, interrupting the annual Boston Pops concert and briefly delaying the fireworks display.
Some revelers were directed into the Storrow Drive tunnels until the threat passed. Others milled about the waterfront. All were soaked by rain as they returned for the start of the fireworks.
Mary Jane Omar of Fall River was disappointed by the evacuation, but undeterred. “No, there’s no way they call off these fireworks,” she protested. “This is Boston.”
Determined to ride out the downpour, Katie Schlund, 19, of Michigan, stayed put with a friend as spectators all around her ran for cover.
“Everyone came rushing past us once it started raining, but we stood still,” she said. The wait was wet, but worth it. “The finale was absolutely the best part,” Schlund declared.
In South Boston on Wednesday night, two people were apparently struck by lightning on Telegraph Hill, where hundreds of people had gathered to watch the fireworks.
Steve MacDonald, spokesman for the Boston Fire Department, said firefighters responded to the hill at about 10:45 p.m. for a report of a man and a woman struck by lightning. A spokeswoman for Boston EMS said the pair was taken to Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The victims were not identified, and there was no word last night on their conditions or the nature of their injuries.
State Police spokesman David Procopio said the temporary halting of the festivities was not without precedent.
“Tonight was not the first time in recent years that State Police evacuated concertgoers to the Storrow tunnels,” Procopio said. “We took the same action several years ago on another stormy July Fourth night. Then, as tonight, the evacuation went very smoothly.
“The decision to evacuate was the prudent one, made in the interest of the safety of the thousands upon thousands of visitors. It was a seamless operation.”
Before the late storm hit, the party was in full swing.
As dusk settled over Boston, hundreds of thousands of revelers along the Esplanade spread out their lawn chairs, unpacked their picnics, and enjoyed live music from the Boston Pops, along with Jennifer Hudson and the Dropkick Murphys.
Diehards trekked in from the suburbs, armed with blankets and patriotic colors, but the visitors also included many out-of-staters. Among them was Jason Fulmer, 41, of Orlando, who made a special trip for the festivities.
He said he has always wanted to attend the celebration and decided at the last minute to make the journey, arriving Tuesday night.
“No other city does it this big,” Fulmer said. “It’s hard to even believe that all of these people came out and came together to celebrate our country.”
Sisters Lisa Bowling, 45, of Kentucky, and Trish Bryant, 52, of Florida, came to pay tribute to their brother, a soldier in the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division who was killed in 2000.
“It’s about remembering our freedom,” Bowling said. “But today, it’s really about remembering him.”
Bryant said she was also excited about the concert.
“I’m most excited to see my love — the Boston Pops,” she said.
Much of the Esplanade was a sea of red, white, and blue, with spectators decked out for the holiday, while service members donned their uniforms.
“I like dressing up and seeing everyone else being patriotic, too,” said Whitney Thomas of Ipswich, who wore a ball cap covered in red sequins, a homemade American flag shirt, and stars and stripes face paint.
Stephen Wood and his daughter, Emma, 14, were continuing a tradition of celebrating Emma’s birthday on the Esplanade, a rite that began when she was 5.
“It’s really exciting sharing my birthday with the country,” Emma said. “I love coming so much. It’s definitely my favorite family tradition.”
The Woods were not the only family celebrating a birthday.
Kathy Rusin and her husband, Henry Wojciechowski, said they drove up from Pennsylvania to celebrate her 56th.
“We’ve watched this celebration on TV every year for at least 15 years,” Rusin said. “This Christmas, my husband surprised me with this as my Christmas and birthday present.”
She recalled opening a giant box with a bow and finding an itinerary, a hotel booking, and a Boston Pops flier inside.
“I just said it casually, oh, about 100 times, ‘someday we’re going to Boston for the Fourth,’ ” said Rusin. “I just can’t believe we’re here. The people are so nice.”