I’m writing kind of early this Saturday but it’s hard to sleep in with puppies.
An hour and a half ago I was determined I would write about the emotional pain associated with the Fourth of July. Independence Day was something I celebrated with great joy as a child but the holiday lost its magic when my friend Bart Carroll was murdered on July 4, 2002. Thankfully I still have strong happy memories associated with the holiday but losing him changed the trajectory of my life. As one of the first loves of my life he left an impression on my heart that was strong enough to inspire me to serve, to finish his mission.
I’ve experienced so much in the fifteen years he’s been gone but like everyone else he touched we tend to think about what he didn’t experience. He didn’t get to marry. He didn’t get the joy of bringing children into his life. He didn’t get to serve in Iraq, as was his desire. I don’t know what dreams he had for himself that composed a bucket list that will never be complete.
After he died, I thought I would at least enjoy fireworks as a means to find peace with his loss. My heart clung to this notion the celebratory fireworks would give me solace and a tiny bit of happiness on a day that was tarnished.
Now that fireworks remind me of mortar attacks and more specifically the day Captain Brock was hit by indirect fire I hate this time of year even more. I can’t even say it’s just the Fourth that bothers me, certainly it’s not my friend, but the days surrounding the holiday get to be my demons, too.
Consumer use of fireworks is permitted from June 24th to July 6th. For someone who doesn’t suffer anxiety around fireworks the time period is awesome. I have thirteen days of wondering and worrying fireworks will disrupt my ability to fall and stay asleep. It’s that feeling of being back in Iraq the day Captain Brock was hit. I feel a sense of powerlessness I don’t like and have to work through because it’s not like I have any guarantee on what days and times my neighbors will use fireworks. I also don’t feel free to go out at night for a walk or dining out, which is a whole other matter. My daughter is getting to an age where she likes fireworks, too, and I am not ready to take her to any public display nor do I buy fireworks to use in the neighborhood so she gets this childhood experience.
This year is only the third Fourth of July fireworks season for me in Gilbert. This season I am (hopefully) a bit more prepared than years past. In 2015, there was zero preparation; I was thrown into a bit of hell only rivaled by New Year’s Eve fireworks. I didn’t realize how much people love using fireworks in the neighborhood over checking out public displays. (Public fireworks displays made life easier in Wyoming and I only experienced a small amount of fireworks with my sister-in-law and her family there.) Last year on the Fourth of July, my husband and I went out to dinner and walked over afterwards to the movie theater. I had some fireworks startle me on my walk over so I needed a few minutes to compose myself before rejoining my husband for the movie. This year will be very different for me.
The Town of Gilbert and a local fireworks company are keeping me notified of different public displays and for the first time here, I am venturing out with my husband to have an outing with friends in Phoenix. I already warned the group I tend to experience panic attacks around fireworks so they’re prepared as well! We started discussing a Fourth of July get together during Memorial Day weekend so I’ve had time to wrap my mind around the idea of how to handle the situation if I have a panic attack around new friends. Up until this point, my husband has been the only person (thankfully) to see me suffer through a panic attack and it’s hard to know other people might see me when I am that vulnerable.
As I tiptoe into social outings, I am taking baby steps (as I would encourage any other person who struggles with fireworks). I was informed I should be able to see the fireworks where we will be without the overwhelming sound/sensation of the explosions. I haven’t set up a specific amount of time I’ll stay out. I don’t know how I’ll feel until I’m out and around everyone while being exposed to fireworks. However, I’ve planned accordingly to have a safe outing as much as possible within my control.
One last thing. This time of year as well, I implore my fellow Americans to also be respectful to our refugee population knowing many of them, like a number of our veterans, have also dealt with explosions that jeopardized their safety and the safety of their loved ones. Too often these men, women, and children are not seen as also needing social support but we need to empathize with their situations. A number of them have lived through war and conflict longer than many of our nation’s war veterans and yet their needs are underrepresented in the media. Fireworks may also remind them of painful experiences in their past.
Ok…so I guess I do have one last thing. If you are going to use fireworks this time of year, please stay safe. Use fireworks responsibility to prevent injury to yourself and to others enjoying your celebration.