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Is it all that sad?

July 26, 2012

“I am sure we are all equally saddened by the cancellation of the fireworks,” according to the Tusten Town Supervisor. Are we? Many veterans need to avoid hearing and seeing explosive fireworks to help them deal with their unrelenting, distracting, emotionally painful disturbing wartime memories.

In the past for many of us, the explosive, violent sounds of fireworks have only been associated with the smells of hot dogs being grilled, laughing with family and friends, eating watermelon, and roasting marshmallows. The colorful displays of fireworks were fun: an aesthetic experience signaling the end of a very happy day. But not to many sad and suffering veterans.

Violent, explosive sounds create physical and psychological stress reactions. Some dogs run and hide and some young children cry when hearing explosive sounds. I spent 27 years in V.A. Medical Centers attending, listening to and helping veterans psychologically cope with their wartime experiences, such as coping with the additional stress of hearing explosive fireworks.

Our media, almost daily, presents the sounds and pictures of human deaths caused by explosives, e.g. the actions of suicide bombers. Can we consider alternative non-explosive ways of celebrating historical events? If not, perhaps the high-tech industry can create the same or better “fireworks” without the explosive sounds. Then maybe more of us would be saddened by the cancellation of the fireworks.

Anthony N. Biancoviso, PhD
Barryville, NY
[Biancoviso is a psychologist.]