By Jessica Easthope
Bill Miller says his walks along Shore Road haven’t been the same lately.
“I don’t always jump, generally I say about 80 percent of the time I do but I always look and I’m always looking to see where it came from,” said Bill, a combat veteran who served for 18 years.
Bill isn’t describing his time in Vietnam — he’s describing what it’s like when he hears fireworks.
“If I’m there and I can see what’s going on, for lack of a better expression, I’m in control. But say I’m going for a walk down Shore Road at night and fireworks are going off down a side street somewhere. It’s very unnerving,” he explained.
Bill and other combat veterans have felt that unnerving feeling most nights this June.
In Brooklyn alone, more than 4,500 complaints have been made to 311 this month. That’s 80 times the number of calls received by the city in the first six months of 2019. In addition, there have been more than 125 shooting incidents in June, numbers not seen in more than two decades.
For Bill, he says the fireworks are different because they can happen anywhere. While many associate the loud and colorful displays with celebration, for combat veterans the sound and smells fireworks leave behind can trigger flashbacks associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“When you slept and all of a sudden there was a rocket attack, that’s what the fireworks are like, and you always ran for cover, so that instinct stays with you,” said Bill..
He says for other combat veterans, the sound of fireworks can be mentally and physically exhausting.
“To run at heightened survival levels like that all the time is very hard on a person, mentally and physically, because your muscles are always tightened and you’re ready to do something,” he added.
There might be an end in sight for veterans like Bill, with a June 23 announcement by Mayor de Blasio on a major crackdown on illegal fireworks and the formation of a task force involving the Sheriff’s Office, NYPD and FDNY.