What comes to mind when you think of the Fourth of July? BBQ's with the family, pool time, the beach, red, white, and blue, patriotism, and maybe, fireworks? Fireworks have become a staple of this fun summer holiday. Sparklers, Roman candles, big explosions, poppers, and bottle rockets. That last one, bottle rockets, begins the story of why I no longer include these dangerous explosives in my Fourth of July, or any, festivities.

It wasn't the Fourth when my story took place, but it happened on New Year's Eve. My freshman year of high school, 2 days before I turned 15, my life changed because of fireworks. That night, innocently watching while my friends shot bottle rockets, I almost lost that itself, my vision. One particular bottle rocket left its intended path and landed on my right eyelid, sending me into a whirlwind of missing school, surgeries, the worst pain I have ever experienced, and vision problems that would continue further into my life.

This one firework caused a detached retina, tear in my iris, and tear in my cornea. I had stitches in my cornea and a lens transplant, but the tear in my iris could not be fixed. This causes a really strong glare in my vision, due to the fact that my pupil stays enlarged at all times, letting a great amount of light in, which causes the normal amount of haziness from my transplant to be in my view at all times. That causes looking at lights and focusing to be extremely difficult. So driving at night and focusing around headlights, looking at computer screens and focusing on something, etc. all becomes really difficult. We all take simple abilities like that for granted, but I have a different perspective on that now.

So why don't I shoot fireworks anymore? Well, I never really cared for them anyways. I'm kind of a sissy when it comes to stuff like that. But now? I guess you could say my fear increased a little. I also may hold a bit of a grudge. I mean I understand this firework didn't have a mind of its own and purposefully attack me, but it's kind of hard not to hate something that caused you to have surgeries, stitches in your eye (really weird feeling), miss school for 4 months, and have vision problems that several different doctors tell you can't be fixed.

I know fireworks are fun. I used to love sparklers and watching the big displays. But now? I refuse to watch them except from inside a building, I still cringe at the noise and the memories flood in at the burning smell.

Even though fireworks won't be a part of my holiday, I'm not asking anyone else to not participate. All I ask is that you read this and know that they can be very dangerous and life altering. You may think you have got it under control but accidents happen.

Please be safe this holiday season, whether or not you decide to shoot these things that changed my life.