The flight attendant poked her head in the cockpit and waited for the pilot to pause in his preflight duties. From my seat in 2A, I heard every word.

"Is that fireworks or lightning?" she asked.

The pilot grinned. "Lightning," he said. The flight attendant rolled her eyes.

So began my flight from Orlando International last night. To the twin displays of ferocious lightning in the clouds and exuberant fireworks on the ground, we climbed into and eventually above the storm; but not before I got an eyeful in every direction. If you've never flown at night on July 4th or New Year's Eve, I recommend it.

My much-maligned home state is never more beautiful than when seen from the air. On night approaches to Orlando, we arc over the Atlantic around Daytona Beach. The moon shines a spotlight on whitecapped waves lapping the shores. It's a storybook locale, so tranquil from thousands of miles up.

On space shuttle launch days, our windows and sliding glass doors rattle in their frames. Neighbors gather outside, looking up. It never gets old, the sight of a spaceship on its ascent into heaven, as seen from your backyard.

On rare days when the shuttle lands at Cape Canaveral, the sonic boom will wake you from a deep sleep.

While the rest of the world went about its business, many homes and businesses in Florida still suffer from the ravages of last year's hurricanes. Amazing, but true: many structures there still sport blue plastic tarps for roofs. The problem isn't always financial; roofers are hard to come by. They're booked solid, and have been since last summer. You simply have to wait your turn.

At least, finally, the debris has been cleared. The homeless have found new homes. The signs have been repaired, trees removed from living rooms, power and water once again a certainty.

So Tropical Storm Dennis, if you're listening, and have any decency whatsoever, you will turn yourself around and head back out to sea. The good people of Florida have just settled back into their lives, including many, such as a relative of mine, whose homes were destroyed and who had to relocate under duress.

I mean it, Dennis. Don't make me come down there.

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