All of of my anxiety posts to date have concerned events about which I’m fearful, but haven’t actually ever happened. The one I’m about to write about did. Last night. And it was terrifying.
For years and years my dad has been in charge of putting on a fireworks show for scuba divers and their families on the 4th of July. The show locale is on top of some limestone cliffs overlooking the Susquehanna River adjacent to the diving quarry where my dad has worked part-time off and on since the late 1980s.
The quarry and the land surrounding it was recently sold, so the owners of the dive shop there held one last picnic last night to celebrate. And, there was one last fireworks show to send things off with a literal bang.
My dad had always purchased the fireworks down in South Carolina, over the border from where his parents used to live. Each summer we took a vacation not only to visit the grandparents, but to pick up a stash of fireworks for the yearly tradition. We all had fun visiting the megastore and watching TV videos that displayed the look and sound of each firework sold. We also relished browsing the names of the fireworks, many of which were very redneck and/or super patriotic. Off the top of my head I recall: Blonde Joke, Here Come Da Judge, Uncle Sam’s Revenge, and Red, White and Boom.
Anyway, every year, as we hiked up to the cliffs with our lawn chairs and blankets, we discussed the possibility of one of the fireworks making its way into the crowd of onlookers instead of the sky, where it’s meant to explode. Although the risk and threat was always very real, we kind of laughed it off as an impossibility. The shows had always been very safe. Well, I think there may have been a year where there was a near miss, but everyone came out unscathed.
Last night, however, two of my family members suffered serious injuries as a result of a firework that had in its mind to fire directly into the crowd instead of up in the sky. Let me say they are both OK. It could have been much worse.
My oldest gal was laying on a blanket with my sister and her kids. The firework in question came up in between my sister and Nora. At the time I couldn’t tell what had happened. Instinctively, I turned away from the flash. I was standing behind everyone holding the baby in a carrier. Liam—who was holding our middle girl—later told me he jumped out of the chair he was sitting in, and ran down the hill shielding both him and her.
The next thing I remember, after the popping and flashing subsided, was hearing Nora screaming hysterically and seeing five or six people rush up to her, all the while yelling, “Take off her clothes! Take off her clothes!” Like I said, terrifying.
I was on the outside of the circle of people trying to care for her during the chaos and confusion, and—frustratingly—I couldn’t get to her. I remember feeling so relieved, though, when someone finally pulled her shirt over her head and I could see her perfect, uninjured little face through her tears. Liam finally picked her up, got her pants off, and, with the help of cell phone flash lights and head lamps, found the source of her pain—three burn marks on her outer thigh, one of which seemed pretty bad.
Someone decided we should call an ambulance and did. He or she later called to cancel it. Gratefully, a medic was part of the crowd of spectators and ran back to his car to get his burn kit. A few strangers let us use their nearby RV so Nora could be treated in a more comfortable, well lit area. It was there that I found out my sister had gotten burned too. Slightly worse than Nora. According to her, she jumped on top of Nora when the flash came and the firework went off in between them. The medic was able to treat her too, saving us all from a late-night trip to the ER.
Nora calmed down after the initial scare and was exceedingly brave. She sat naked on Liam’s lap in that RV eating chips and drinking juice that was offered to her, all the while cracking jokes with Mike the medic. She was amazing. She is amazing.
On the drive home, I was a mother hen chock full of adrenaline and cortisol, driving significantly below the speed limit in an attempt to keep my little chicks safe from further threat of danger.
Later, when we all got home and into bed, I kept agonizingly reliving the mini-explosion over and over again in my head. I kept seeing the bright flashes, hearing the pops and the screams, watching frantic hands undress my baby and then seeing her face, her injuries.
My heart broke all over again this morning when I found Nora’s clothing in the car. Her pants and shirt had burn holes in them and smelled of sulphur and fire. Ugh. Into the trash.
For now, though, Nora seems little bothered by her injuries (except for when it’s time to change the bandages). The adults close to her—my dad and brother especially, the show igniters 😉—were much more affected.
I’m busy trying not to dwell on the what-could-have-beens, and feeling grateful that Nora and my sister are OK. I’m trying to follow Nora’s brave lead and act as though what happened was no worse than a scrape on the knee from falling off a bike. I think she will have a bad scar, but hoping she won’t have much more of a memory of this time than that.
Unlike her mother, she seems pretty unfazed. Other than the fact she has vowed to never, ever, EVER, EVER again go see a fireworks show. Ever again. Ever. Like, ever, mama.
Like I said, amazing.