DEAR ABBY: Please warn your readers that fireworks are deadly.
Two months before his 4th birthday, my son Michael attended our family reunion. A Patriot missile launcher was part of the evening's fireworks entertainment. The Patriot, a multiple-tube aerial mine and shell-1.4G firework, was legal for consumer use. No one at the reunion could predict that the product would become unstable while firing, tip over and shoot horizontally across the yard.
Michael, standing between my legs more than 40 feet from the launch area, had only reflex time to turn his face before the explosive collided with his head, fracturing his skull and burning his brain. Our son remained conscious, actually aware of his head injury and its pain. He died the next day from the extensive damage.
That product was recalled, but removing only one fireworks product from the market does little to protect our children. In 1996, there were 7,600 fireworks-related injuries that received hospital emergency room care -- and this number does not reflect the countless number of injuries treated elsewhere.
Twenty-five percent of all fireworks injuries are eye-related. With a 90-year history of saving sight, Prevent Blindness America is expanding its annual fireworks awareness campaign by debuting "Light the Night for Sight" this June. Light the Night for Sight promotes safe and fun ideas for celebrating our nation's birth, including a walkathon in more than 40 locations across the United States.
Abby, please share our experience with your readers and let them know about Prevent Blindness. The information they offer can save lives. -- JACK, ROBIN AND STEPHANIE SHANNON, CARY, N.C.
DEAR JACK, ROBIN AND STEPHANIE: Please accept my sympathy for the tragic loss of your precious little boy, Michael. I hope your warning serves as a reminder of the potentially life-threatening danger that fireworks can pose. They do not belong in the hands of nonprofessionals.
Most communities offer spectacular pyrotechnical displays on July 4. Not only are they colorful entertainment, they can be enjoyed with the assurance of safety.
Prevent Blindness offers a free brochure that proposes alternative activities to celebrate our nation's birth with creativity and fun instead of flames or dangerous chemicals. It can be ordered by calling this toll-free number: (800) 331-2020.