Our Favorite Opening Paragraph in the History of Journalism
The Fourth of July is rapidly approaching, which means we're in for some lectures about fireworks safety. While we may get bored with warnings that end with “…until someone loses a finger” or “…until a red-hot sparkler wire brands someone,” these safety announcements are a worthy cause. Fireworks are dangerous. Just ask the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
In late June 1988, the commission staged what must have been history’s most dramatic demonstration of fireworks’ destructive capabilities. The demonstration led to what is quite possibly the greatest lede paragraph in the Associated Press’ long and storied history:
“Tourists at the Washington Monument flinched in surprise Tuesday as Federal safety officials blew two turkey carcasses to bits in a demonstration of the dangers of fireworks.”
The story then noted that “a pair of watermelons also met their end” in the demonstration before breaking out a sentence that may not be the very best the AP has ever published, but it’s at least in the top five:
“M-100's were used in the turkey carcasses, blowing them apart and scattering pieces about.”
When you’re using fireworks responsibly this Fourth of July, remember America’s founders and heroes who helped make the day possible. And while you’re at it, take a moment to mentally salute those turkey carcasses, watermelons, and anonymous Associated Press stringers who helped us remember to celebrate the day while keeping our thumbs firmly attached to our bodies.