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Vickroy: Here’s hoping the Fourth sparks thoughtfulness

SAN BRUNO CA - JULY 03:  Fireworks are displayed shelf inside San Bruno Rotary Club fireworks stJuly 3 2013

SAN BRUNO, CA - JULY 03: Fireworks are displayed on a shelf inside of the San Bruno Rotary Club fireworks stand on July 3, 2013 in San Bruno, California. Fire departments in the greater San Francisco Bay Area are on heightened alert as vendors in select cities in Santa Clara, San Mateo and Alameda counties began selling fireworks on July 1. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 173067642

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Updated: August 5, 2013 5:10PM



I love a good fireworks show. All those bright, sparkly colors bursting overhead and then fading to black while the works of John Philip Sousa or Lee Greenwood play in sync.

The willow is my favorite kind of rocket, followed by the crossette, which sends little stars draping in all different directions.

Yes, it’s nice that so many municipalities put on such entertaining displays each Fourth of July — so that I don’t have to.

I just wish they were enough to appease the inner pyro in all of us.

As you know, they are not, which is why we revisit this very topic every year.

Look, I get that our forefathers valiantly fought for us and that celebrating our freedom is not only a privilege, but something to cheer about.

But the only thing that M-80s and firecrackers bring to the party is noise.

Noise for noise’s sake? I don’t get it. Nor do I understand why the bombs must continue to burst into the next day, the next week, the next month.

You know the saying: It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.

And if you are the parent of a small child or you live with someone who suffers from anxiety or chronic illness, or if you are among the many working Joes who has to get up and go into the office the next day, that hurt comes early on in the form of annoyance.

For some people, particularly veterans who have seen intense battle, the hurt can be an emotional trip down memory lane.

Bruce Lorence, a Vietnam vet and member of Tinley Park’s veterans commission and VFW Post 2791, said while the repetitive sound of exploding fireworks does not bother most veterans, it can affect some who have seen serious action.

Lt. Col. Nick Johnson, a psychologist and veteran who works for the Department of Veterans Affairs at Naval Station Great Lakes and is a member of the Benjamin O. Davis VFW Post 311 in Richton Park, said many things can lead to someone recalling a past event that may be traumatic to them.

“It could be fireworks, the backfiring of a car, the date in which an act happened, even a smell,” he said. “I have in fact heard from some peers who cannot watch certain movies that have gun violence; it reminds them of earlier experiences in the military.”

Johnson said he has difficulty watching the big shootout scene in the movie “Miami Vice” because the sounds of the weapons firing seem so real to him.

As a nation, we annually drop $600 million on fireworks for our Fourth of July celebrations, with two-thirds of that money going up in smoke in people’s back yards. Money to burn? Indeed.

Maybe it’s time to consider other forms of investment.

And then there are the physical hurts. Nationwide, there are about 1,400 hand, 900 leg and 1,000 head injuries each year. Here in Illinois, 19 percent of fireworks-related injuries in 2012 occurred to fingers, while 18 percent involved the hands, according to the Illinois State Fire Marshal.

The emergency room doctors at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn already were treating such injuries last week. According to Dr. Barbara McCreary, injuries most commonly occur because a person either holds a lit firework too long or drops the lit firework and then tries to pick it up before it explodes.

Extremely powerful fireworks, such as M-80s, can prove especially dangerous, McCreary said. Materials from them can be impaled into the skin, she said.

It might surprise you to know that most of the injuries doctors treat are caused by legal fireworks, McCreary said.

Sparklers can burn at temperatures as high as 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt some metals and to cause third-degree burns to skin.

Every year on the Fourth of July and for days after, scared and injured animals are brought to the area’s shelters and clinics.

Linda Estrada, executive director of the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge, said they treat dogs that have suffered broken bones in falls from balconies, down stairs or from being hit by a car.

“They hear all that noise and it’s dark and they panic and run,” Estrada said.

Many fleeing dogs become lost, and their panic is heightened even more. Each year, around this time, the number of stray dogs brought to the shelter increases.

Estrada has seen dogs that have gotten caught on and under fences while trying to run from the noise. She’s even seen dogs that have become so distressed at the constant sounds of explosions that they have broken through windows or screens.

Pat Duggan, vice president of Peoples Animal Welfare Society in Tinley Park, said her 150-pound Newfoundland mix takes shelter in the crawl space.

At PAWS, the staff skips the evening walks with dogs on the Fourth of July.

“It’s just too stressful,” she said.

Duggan recommends pet owners keep the air conditioning on and play music to help drown out the noise. If your dog needs to go out, take it on a leash. Cats, she said, should not be let out at all during the celebrations.

Every year, she said, the police bring frightened dogs to the shelter on the holiday. The owners often say that the animal darted off after a neighbor shot off fireworks.

“Owners need to make sure their pet is wearing a collar with an ID tag just in case it gets out. The collar should be tight enough that only two fingers fit under it,” she said.

So go ahead with your barbecues and parades and red, white and blue Jell-O creations. Have a good time. Your forefathers would want that.

Just try to remember that it is Independence Day, not Independence Week or Independence Month. And try to be considerate, respectful and kind to those for whom the holiday can be stressful.

In short, be a good citizen. Be the kind of citizen your forefathers fought for.



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