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.

Dear Abby: I am an administrator at a school that has both secondary and post-secondary occupational training. Like "Honor Student," I am offended at the insinuation that vocational students are low achievers who need a "lesser" school to attend. I applaud you and "Honor Student" for standing up for these students.

Our students are a cross section of the students of today. They include the average, below-average and above-average. Many in the post-secondary school have some college or a degree. These students are the ones who keep the public's cars running, the plumbing operating, repair the TVs and erect the homes. Don't forget that building the building is equally as important as designing it.

One point you failed to recognize needs to be noted. You mentioned the benefits to the students, but there is a benefit to the public as well.

- Doyle Slaten, President, Foothill Technical

Institute, Searcy, Ark.

Dear Doyle: Thank you for pointing out the benefit to the community that vocational education provides. In addition to the courses of study that you mentioned, courses in medical technology, bookkeeping and accounting, court reporting, computer draft-ing, electronics, bartending and casino dealing - to mention only a few of the options - are offered. For those readers who are interested in pursuing this further, your local phone book is an excellent resource.

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

1997 Universal Press Syndicate

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All of the Dear Abby columns for the past several years are available online. Search for "DEAR ABBY" in the Lifestyle section and the Deseret News archives.