They were doing the line dance when what sounded like firecrackers split the air.
Because the sound was to be expected at a Chinese lantern festival, no one immediately noticed the demise of a fig tree that for 144 years had watched skyscrapers built around it and a freeway carved out beside it; that saw the changing fashions and hairstyles of the people beneath it; that sheltered a growing number of homeless people from rain and sun.
It wasn’t the sound of firecrackers. It was the sound of a tree dying.
“We saw the lanterns attached to the tree start to go,” said Teena Apeles, whose daughter’s troupe was waiting to perform. “We knew something was wrong.”
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