What's not to love about the Fourth of July? Barbecues, staying up late and watching all the magnificent fireworks were annual traditions when I was growing up. One afternoon, my friends and I decided to start the festivities a little early and headed to a local fireworks stand. We looked in awe at all the wonderful Chinese-made packages of fun and picked out our favorites. My friend, Eric, chose bottle rockets, while another friend grabbed some firecrackers. I picked out some Roman candles. In those days, you could buy anything you wanted as long as you told the fireworks stand owner it was for your father.

With our purchases in hand, we happily rode our bikes back to Eric's house because he had a huge backyard and his parents were never home. After all, who wants parents around when you're doing things you're not supposed to do? Eric went searching inside his house for something we could blow up and returned with several of his brother's model cars. After loading the cars with fireworks, we spent the next hour destroying them. Yes, we did this without parental supervision, proper personal protective equipment or regard to our safety.

Once the cars were satisfactorily dismantled, it was time for the bottle rockets. We started off by launching them out of an old Pepsi bottle. At first, we'd light them, step away and watch them explode in the air. After a while, however, we decided it would be more fun to hold the Pepsi bottle so we could shoot them at various things in the yard. While this was fun, it was not very smart or safe.

Once the bottle rockets ran out, it was time for the big finale -- Roman candles! For those who aren't familiar with Roman candles, they are long, narrow cardboard tubes that shoot fireballs. As I held one of the Roman candles, I noticed a warning on the side that stated, "Do Not Hold in Hand." "Really," I thought. "How can we enjoy the fireballs if we don't hold them?"

Throwing caution to the wind, we decide to ignore the warning and hold the Roman candles anyway. It started wonderfully -- colored balls of fire shooting everywhere. Suddenly, as I pointed mine at a tree, I heard a weird pop and saw a cloud of smoke. Then I felt a searing pain in my right hand. The candle had exploded in my hand! All I could think of was the warning label and how it was right.

I nervously looked at my hand to survey the damage. There was blister the size of a silver dollar swelling up, and I was now in horrible pain. Luckily, that was the extent of the damage. My fingers were intact and I wasn't bleeding. However, my parents did ground me for two weeks when I told them what happened. Take my advice and heed the warning labels on fireworks. They're there for a reason.


w/ info box below

"FYI
To help you celebrate safely this Fourth of July, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Council on Fireworks Safety offer the following safety tips:

• Always read and follow label directions.
• Have an adult present.
• Buy from reliable sellers.
• Use outdoors only.
• Always have water handy (a garden hose and a bucket).
• Never experiment or make your own fireworks.
• Light only one firework at a time.
• Never re-light a "dud" firework (wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water).
• Never give fireworks to small children.
• If necessary, store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
• Dispose of fireworks properly by soaking them in water and then disposing of them in your trashcan.
• Never throw or point fireworks at other people.
• Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
• Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
• The shooter should always wear eye protection and never have any part of the body over the firework.
• Stay away from illegal explosives.

Page last updated Thu May 31st, 2012 at 11:39