By Trista Sampson
At street corners, gas stations, and in empty lots, fireworks tents are popping up. Combine that with the long days and sweltering heat, and that means July 4th must be near.
The quintessential American holiday, we backyard barbecue, take in some baseball, and gather with family and friends. And when the day draws to a close, the fireworks light up the sky.
This time-honored tradition is one way in which we honor our freedom, our country, and especially the men and women who have fought for our way of life.
The spark and sizzle of fireworks lighting up the sky crosses many divides. Race, religion, wealth, age and gender all fall away as rockets soar into the night. A well-crafted fireworks display can easily be more captivating than television or the Internet's latest offerings. The beauty of the colors and shapes, the crackle and whine of each rocket, the scent of the smoke, and even the heat if we are close enough, all serve to draw us in.
It is no surprise, then, that we try to recreate the grand displays with fireworks that can be set off in our back yards and neighborhoods. With ID, cash and some minor agricultural use only fiction, fireworks of all shapes and sizes can easily be purchased at this time of year. Neighbors gather while the children play with simple sparklers. Braver souls fire off larger fireworks, with spectacular and profound effects.
July 4th is the anniversary of America's Independence Day. The soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who have defended America must be central to July 4th celebrations. Despite that, few people are aware that the very fireworks that so habitually symbolize our Independence Day festivities can cause significant emotional trauma to our service members.
Estimates say between 10-30 percent of combat service members will develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The bang and boom of a firework becomes the blast and rattle of an explosive device. The whistle of the rocket can be mistaken for an incoming missile. Pops sound like gunfire. The smell from launched fireworks is the same as gunpowder. That flash of light could be gunfire, or an explosion.
If the private use of fireworks is integral to your celebration, please be considerate.
Some suggestions include:
- Cease at a reasonable hour.
- Avoid irregularly spacing of the timing of your fireworks.
- Confine your use to the days immediately surrounding July 4th. (Either 7/4 or the weekend immediately preceding or after)
- Give your neighbors advance notice of your intent to use fireworks.
Trista Sampson is a Riverview resident and the wife of an Afghan war veteran.