To the Point for 6/30/05


MONDAY IS THE FOURTH OF JULY, and for many people it will be a day when families and friends gather for picnics and other summer activities.

When nightfall comes, the holiday is always marked with all sorts of fireworks programs — from major events along the river to sparklers and Roman candles in people’s back yards.

We all admire the beauty in such things, but this is also a time when we need to be very careful about how fireworks are handled — especially by children.

I am not a fireworks guy, and I can tell you the exact moment that I became that way.

It was the summer that I was 16 years old, and on the evening of the Fourth of July I went to the community fireworks in my hometown of Centerville with a couple of buddies, Jeff Banning and Ron Battista, and some young ladies that we happened to be interested in at the time.

The fireworks program at Centerville when I was a kid occurred at the high school football field, which at that time was adjacent to the 4-H fairgrounds. People from all over would park their vehicles at the fairgrounds and walk over to the practice field in order to get a good look at the fireworks display, which featured both aerial and ground displays.

Centerville’s fireworks were always shot off by Jim Mattix, a man who is a family friend. Even though he was trained and qualified to shoot off the fireworks, it seemed as though every year something would go wrong and Jim would be hauled off to the hospital for treatment of burns or something.

Anyway, on that particular night we were sitting with the girls and watching the fireworks and trying to be as cool as three 16-year olds could be when a group of younger kids rode up on their bicycles.

Parking right in front of our blanket, they seemed oblivious to the fact that they were blocking our line of sight.

Now Ron Battista was a two-time conference wrestling champion at 185-pounds, and he didn’t exactly back down from many people, especially some young kids on bikes. Not wanting to cause too much of a ruckus, he quietly lit a smoke bomb and tossed it in the middle of the bikes.

The nearby crowd giggled as the boys rode away from the midst of the smoke, and we settled back to watch the rest of the show.

After the usual grand finale of the sparkling red, white, and blue American Flag; the football field lights came on and everyone began to gather up their things.

As Ron leaned over to pick up the blanket, one of the kids on the bikes rode by and dropped a pack of lit firecrackers into the middle of the blanket. They went off right in Ron’s face, causing temporary deafness in his left ear and burns on his face.

I decided that night that some “harmless fireworks” were anything but.

Statistics from the Indiana Department of Health show that there were 233 cases of fireworks injuries last year in Indiana; and that 25-percent of those people either had to be admitted to the hospital or get specialized care for burns or eye injuries.

Statewide, 52-percent of fireworks-related injuries involved children — which is especially alarming in light of the fact that children make up only four percent of Indiana’s population.

Fireworks are a part of this holiday, but those using them must act in a responsible way when setting them off — and this is especially true when using fireworks around children.

One of the most frequent injuries among children are burns caused by sparklers. As adults we fall into the trap that sparklers are harmless entertainment; handing them out to our children and watching them run around the yard.

But if we think back, we also remember when we were children and we burned ourselves on a burned out sparkler wire.

This is a great weekend for families and friends to get together and enjoy the summer and celebrate our independence. Let’s also make sure that it is a safe holiday, too, by making sure that our fireworks are used properly and monitored when in the hands of children.