07/07/2013 06:24 pm ET Updated Sep 06, 2013

Why Fireworks Make Me Cry

I was at the hospital Thursday night, celebrating the 4th of July in my own way. I was not injured, I work there, so my behavior did not arouse any attention. Most people I know, and especially my two sons, love fireworks so I try to disappear on July 4th. I have been doing this since I started crying uncontrollably in front of a former girlfriend and her family a few years ago. We were at a Rockies game in Denver on the 2nd of July. I did not know there would be fireworks after the game. Everyone was staying to watch them and so I just sat there while they started to explode. I started to cry; then I began to choke back sobs. I was able to stop myself after a few minutes, right before the grand finale.

I'm writing about this a day after the 4th because I did not want to ruin anyone's fireworks experience last night. I love celebrating America's birthday and I still think that fireworks are spectacular displays of beauty, just as all explosions are beautiful from a distance.

I used to love fireworks. I used to get to the park early to position my blanket so I could lay on my back directly under their crackling arcs of fire. I even braved freezing temperatures one year to see the fireworks at Penns Landing in Philadelphia for New Years in 2001. That was before I joined the Army and went to Iraq. Since I've been back from Iraq, I avoid them, mainly because they make me cry. When I see them I feel vulnerable and weak. I look around at everyone else's expressions of awe and joy, and I think I must be crazy. In every explosion I see body parts flying through the air. The noises sound hostile and angry to me. I see arms and legs shattering the bodies of people I know in every red, white, and blue explosion. I don't try to hide from them, I just start to weep.

Today, I'm a little sad I missed the picnics and the celebrations, but I'm more relieved I was able to hide for another year, even if I had to stay in the hospital all night.