Many Americans look forward to fireworks for celebratory moments, but before July 4 comes around, I start gathering my earplugs and prepare myself a place in the basement.

I don’t usually have fun on the evening of July 4. The sounds and sights of the fireworks trigger post-traumatic stress disorder for those who lived in wars and those who served in wars. The only difference is the vets who served in wars have fired at enemies, and when they were fired at, at least they had some defense. The civil war refugees have been sitting ducks and many have war scars to prove it.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth.

I have not served in wars, but I have lived in wars where bombs flattened the city of my birth to the ground and turned the skies red every night. I may not have physical war scars, but I have deep emotional scars that may never heal. I have vivid memories of what wars feel like and how explosions make our bodies feel. Each moment when an explosion happened where I grew up, I remember holding my family members tighter as we held our breath, covered our ears and closed our eyes. In case the next one was landing on top of us, we could all die together. If there were a few minutes of silence, no gunshots, we breathed out and felt lucky to live another day. I have seen what explosions do to our brains and to our bodies. They create constant nightmares or insomnia, extreme vigilance and continuous butterflies in our stomach.

PTSD is a mental health condition that develops in those of us who have witnessed dangerous events at some point in our lives. For some like myself who have lived through constant bombings that killed our friends and family members, we never want to hear anything that is similar to what took the lives of our beloved ones. I have now lived in the United States to experience six Fourth of July fireworks; after the fireworks I experienced sleeplessness, panic attacks, flashbacks and thoughts of trauma events. To me and to many others, there is nothing happy about the sounds and sights of fireworks.

One of the reasons civil war refugees like myself chose Maine is the quietness and dark skies of its nights. It is a blessing to not see red skies with explosions in the skies of Maine. With time and self care we usually get better, and the PTSD may not be a constant disturbance in our day-to-day lives. Except for the Fourth of July and  New Year’s Eve. We are not alone in this – some dogs experience trauma from the fireworks display, but dogs cannot write a column so I hope this also speaks for them.

For anyone planning their own recreational fireworks in their backyard this summer, please check with your neighbors before your set them off. My neighbor sets off July 4 fireworks on his property for a small gathering. He was kind enough to invite me for the fun, but I had to explain the situation. Now that he knows, he texts me the exact time he intends to set the fireworks off so that I have time to escape temporarily. He texts me when it is safe for me to return. The state can do the same for the different communities who suffer from PTSD or depression. Inform them about the fireworks plans, visit Lewiston, Kennedy park and Riverton neighborhoods in Portland where many refugees who have lived in civil wars reside. We can turn July 4 and other celebrations into a caring time, not scaring time.

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