beauty-and-danger-of-fireworks

He was crawling around the roof doing a homeowner’s favorite job — cleaning out gutters — when he spotted it. Surprise surprise, THERE’S A HOLE IN MY ROOF THE SIZE OF A BASKETBALL!!! Withered remains of a Bottle Rocket were nearby the rim of charred shingles. This was our first home and we took pride in every corner, but it wasn’t the damaged shingles that blew us away. It was the danger of what could have been, and we didn’t even know it. Discovering a hole in your roof is sobering and, as you can see, the hazard side of fireworks plays with a person’s mind for a lifetime. I know someone who actually spends the evening of the 4th perched on his roof, nozzle in hand, defending his home from party-ers.

On the other hand, the coming holiday is synonymous with the birth of our long awaited first child, Christy. Labor started on July 3. After taking me to the hospital and holding my hand for the appropriate amount of time, Bill dashed out for an entire bag full of firecrackers. He wanted to tell the world how over the moon we were. But Christy had other plans. She apparently changed her mind about coming out into the world that day — false labor they said. A day later she changed her mind again, and was finally born July 5. So… in our family the 4th of July doesn’t mean getting out from under England’s thumb. It means the start of our beautiful little family.

There’s mixed feelings for sure. I’ve been awed by many spectacular firework displays. I see the draw. But I don’t believe that tradition should stand in the way of common sense. Just because we’ve done it this way before, doesn’t mean it has to always be. Times change, conditions change. Among other concerns, if my pleasure frightens every dog in the neighborhood — and there are many — it’s time to unstick myself from that ritual.

At the risk of being labelled a party pooper, killjoy or worse, I give you common sense. The upside: pleasure. Fireworks provide stunning entertainment. The downside: injury from careless ignition, environmental pollution, noise impact to hearing, fire hazard, auto accidents caused by party goers. And then there are the many veterans whose PTSD is triggered by the explosion of fireworks. Death and destruction are common statistics every year at this time. Last year there were 5 deaths, 9,100 went to the ER. In 2017: 8 deaths, ER 12,900. An average of 240 people go to the hospital every single day of the month surrounding the 4th. Even sparklers can cause injury; they burn at nearly 2000°.

I suppose it’s no different than all the other silly things we do to kill and maim ourselves, but in my own head at this moment, it just doesn’t make sense to keep celebrating the holiday in this way. Originally designed in Ancient China as a dangerous weapon, fireworks are, after all, filled with gunpowder and volatile chemicals.

John Adams is no doubt cursing me about now.  It was his idea in 1776 to celebrate America’s independence from the rule of England with, among other things, 13 rockets. And with a red glare from bombs bursting in air, I presume!