I wanted to get home before dark last night. Unfortunately, dark came sooner than expected.
Most people actually want to be out after dark on the Fourth of July to watch fireworks. But I don’t like fireworks. It’s not a popular stance, but I have my reasons.
First, I happen to think that public fireworks are expensive and pointless. And, in my opinion, the money spent on fireworks by cities, counties and corporations could be put to much better use supporting nonprofits and social services.
Second, I think that private fireworks are dangerous. I’ve felt this way my whole life. Even as a kid, on the Fourth of July, after I’d run around with one sparkler in the driveway I was done and wanted to go inside and get far away from the fireworks.
Although these are my personal opinions, for years I would go celebrate the Fourth of July with friends and eat barbecue and watermelon and keep my mouth shut about my opinions when the fireworks started.
Even last night, there were four different social gatherings I was invited to. But I didn’t want to go anywhere after dark. I haven’t gone anywhere after dark on the Fourth of July for four years now.
Four years ago, on the Fourth of July, I was heading out to meet some friends. I only got two blocks from my house when some kids set off some kind of firecracker right next to my car. It was so loud. It was so scary. I burst into tears and had to pull the car over to the side of the road.
I took me awhile to pull myself together. When I did, instead of continuing on to the party, I turned around and went home. I went to bed early but sat there with the lights on and jumped and fought back tears every time I hear the popping and whizzing and cracking of the fireworks that were going on all around me.
As I sat there, I realized that this was some form of PTSD. The firecracker that detonated next to my car was, for me, a manifestation of the explosion that had killed Stan. This was only three weeks after he had died. I was still crying daily, but that firecracker didn’t just extract tears of grief, but tears of fear. The fear that I imagined he felt as he was dying on the side of the road in Baghdad. The fear I felt for all of the men and women serving in Iraq.
Last night, like every Fourth of July since, I didn’t want to be out during the fireworks. But dinner with my friend took a little longer than expected and it was dark by the time we were driving home. Thank God he was driving because as we got close to my house, there were people, families, out in the street lighting fire to loud and scary things. I started to feel nervous, I felt the tears coming and I just wanted to get home to my bed.
I sat up last night, in bed, with the lights on waiting for the noises from the fireworks to stop just like I’ve done every Fourth of July for the past four years. But that’s okay. I know that it’s okay to still have fear and still be upset. Maybe someday I’ll feel differently and I’ll be able to enjoy this holiday again. But even if I have the same reaction to fireworks for the rest of my life, it’s an honest and sincere reaction to something tragic that happened to someone I love and the trauma that I suffered because of it. And that’s a part of who I am now and just another reason why I don’t like fireworks.