On being shot by a firework

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Here’s a spoiler: I lived.

This past Saturday night, I was sitting in my backyard around 9 p.m. The sky was aflame with projectiles whistling the atmosphere, exploding and freaking out every dog in the vicinity before spreading sundry colors against a backdrop of black.

I was relaxing with a beer on our patio as some friends set off some bottle-rockets and ground fireworks[1] behind me. The Red Sox were playing on the television, and I had my head momentarily turned, watching the game, disgusted by the fact that they were losing to the Cubs.

It happened so fast that I barely registered the whizzing of the firework heading straight at me. The base of the box had tipped over on the grass[2], and the last shot in the pack came zipping at me.

Instinctually—and luckily—I ducked and covered my head, and the small missile struck my ribs and exploded, setting my t-shirt on fire.

I don’t remember a lot after that.

I was moving on pure adrenalin, the primal instinct to survive. I’m sure I screamed as I tossed off my t-shirt and—again, this confluence of luck might partly explain why I’m typing this right now—my stepdaughter, who is a nurse, went into emergency-mode and did her thing, dressing my wounds and treating me.

What’s left of my T-shirt.

So now, nearly a week later, I’m here reflecting on this. I’m psychologically shaken, but the damage is negligible: I have some nasty burns and contusions on my left arm and ribs but, as aforementioned, I’ll live.

The whole ordeal, however, has me thinking a lot about risks and our fragile mortality. If I’m going to be honest about it, I could’ve been killed.

And, for me, it begs the question: For what?

Like many males, I enjoy the hell out of watching stuff explode. It’s somehow written into our DNA. And I’ve always enjoyed setting off fireworks, a visceral type of pleasure that if I need to explain it, you’ll never understand[3].

And it’s true that anytime you leave the house, there are inherent risks. Accidents happen. The world is a dangerous place and—not to be existentially obvious—anything can happen at any time that is entirely beyond our control.

I also don’t want to be the curmudgeon who tries to regulate fireworks. I don’t see anything wrong with adults using them safely.

There’s also the symbolism to consider. The history of fireworks on July 4 dates back to 1777 in Philadelphia during the first organized celebration of the United States’ independence when 13 cannons were fired off ships in recognition of the colonies[4].

But now, in 2022, in a nation that has not been this divided since the Civil War, are the fireworks really a symbol and celebration of our country’s independence, or is it just about frivilously blowing shit up?

Again, my wounds—while extremely painful[5]—are relatively minimal, and I was incredibly lucky. But next year, instead of shooting flames in the night sky, maybe I’ll eschew symbolism, borrow a PA system and read Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence” to anyone willing to listen.

Then again, that could blow up as well.


[1] Last year, we bought a bundle of real-deal fireworks and set them off in the backyard. Our neighbor, however, didn’t appreciate the festivities and came to our house, an unfortunate altercation that led me to surmise that said neighbor would call the police and have us fined if we tried it again.

[2] In fairness, it did say on the packaging to not set these particular fireworks off on grass or any surface that wasn’t level.

[3] Certainly, a decent analog can also be made with shooting a gun, but that’s a different conversation for another time.

[4] Again, there’s an irony to the fact that we’re lighting off fireworks as a symbolic celebration of independence while women’s rights are concurrently being stripped.

[5] Thank God for codeine.


About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com