*Originally published on June 27, 2012
The Fourth of July is right around the corner and within the next couple of days I am sure to start hearing the bangs, crackles, and screams of fireworks exploding outside of my house. I welcome these echoing sounds because it signifies a great American holiday and the onset of summer. Although the loud booms seem to always linger around a little longer than I would like as people on my street tend to light off fireworks well into late July, it is still an overall positive sound for me that brings me back to my youth.
Growing up as a kid, I LOVED fireworks. For most of my life fireworks have been banned in my hometown of Spokane so I would always cherish the annual trip my family would take to Walla Walla, Washington, for the Fourth. As fireworks were legal in Walla Walla at the time, I would always salivate a little bit as we entered town and I started to see the various fireworks stands stationed in parking lots and on the sides of the streets.
Besides the pretty tame stand fireworks available in town, my uncles would always blow a whole bunch of money and stock up on the “good stuff” from the reservations. By the time July 3 and July 4 came around, we had a mini war zone taking over the yard of whatever aunt or uncle was hosting the family get together that year.
We lit fireworks off non-stop during the day and then transitioned into our own little fireworks show by night. While I loved the shows that we (and the neighbors around us) put on during the night, I really found love with the day arsenal more. You see, I was much more of a loud, blow-stuff-up kind of boy as opposed to the sparkling pretty colors “oooohhhh and ahhhhhhh” type. I preferred bottle rockets, firecrackers, and M80’s over fountains, strobes, and mortars. I liked blowing up beanie babies, detonating soda cans, and firing off bottle rockets at my cousins and brother. Through the age range of about 11-16, I remember these Fourth of July memories fondly. What I also remember is the horror and anger my mom had as she watched me light even the most harmless smoke bomb off.
I remember hating the stipulations, restrictions, and nagging my mom would force upon me each year. I hated getting scolded in front of my older cousins and worse yet, sometimes having to sit out entirely. “Mom, I am fine, I will be careful, trust me,” I would plead. My dad, the most low key guy in his family, would also take my mom’s side. My cousins would be detonating fireworks off with a cigarette lighter while I would be lighting extra long fuses with a candle lighter. I would get so frustrated and tell my mom she was embarrassing me. At that time, I didn’t understand it.
When you grow up, you start to see things differently. You experience more, read more, and observe more. Ten years removed from my “pyrotechnic”days, I no longer trust/glorify fireworks as much as I used to. Report after report of people who lose their limbs, lose their property, and even lose their lives from fireworks has changed my thinking a little bit. Back in the day, I would debate with you endlessly on how stupid it was for cities and towns to ban fireworks. I would throw out words like “unpatriotic,’ “controlling,” and “absurd”. I would reason that only uncareful and clueless people could be harmed while using fireworks. Speaking out of ignorance then, I now know that many professional pyrotechnicians get hurt and killed each year practicing their trade.
While I won’t go out and say that I fully support a fireworks ban, I do understand it.
A couple things people need to know about fireworks: While operator error is just one reason to feel nervous about fireworks, disaster can strike in other ways too. Fireworks can malfunction and not do what they were supposed to. Mother Nature can blow a firework off course or she could produce a very hot and dry day, making everything more susceptible to catching fire. A lone spark could ignite a house up in flames. Someone walking around could accidently stroll into the path of a firework or knock a firework down. There are just so many chances for something going wrong.
So while I probably don’t even completely trust a professional with fireworks, I certainly don’t trust a twelve year old with them. Mom, you were definitely right on this one. But between a professional and a twelve year old, there are many more groups that fall into the spectrum. One of these groups are good-old, trust worthy adults, just like me. Do I trust them? Do I trust myself? The answer is no. Not only do I not entirely trust people my age with fireworks, I definitely don’t trust people my age who have been drinking with fireworks. The Fourth of July is a drinking holiday, making it so many people who do light off fireworks are hammered. Does this put anyone else on edge? I would say it kind of makes those crazy people who are looking to ban fireworks a little more sane.
Fireworks are dangerous. But life is dangerous too, right? Just because life is dangerous doesn’t mean we should stop living it. The same can be said for fireworks too….just because they are dangerous does not mean people should stop celebrating with them. If they are legal in your area, by all means partake in the fun, just keep in mind the possible consequences. For the people who live in areas where they are already banned I know you will probably still celebrate with fireworks anyway so I offer the same advice…keep in mind the possible consequences. Don’t trust fireworks. Take every safeguard possible and have a plan for if and when things go wrong. And lastly, give your eleven year old sparklers and poppers, not M80’s. Don’t Blink.