Growing up, I used sparklers and those weird things called snakes. No big deal. Some day my daughters will likely hold a sparkler... under strict supervision, of course. But they won't be sparklers bought by me. I cannot bring myself to go in to those big establishments (or, in the case of my neighborhood, the roadside tent) where they sell oodles of fireworks.
The summer before my senior year in college, I interned at a TV station in West Virginia. One day, just before the 4th of July, a huge fire broke out in a fireworks store. At least 8 people died. The fire started when a man went into the store with a lit cigarette. The man was mentally disabled and some reports suggested he was "dared" to light the fireworks inside by some dumbass teenagers. (That allegation was long disputed and I don't know what ever came of that). From what I can find in Internet searches, the man is still confined to a mental institution after being found incompetent to stand trial.
This was my first time covering a situation involving such heartache and tragedy. I watched desperate family members stand outside the yellow police tape, waiting for news of loved ones. I saw video of a young boy, clearly in shock, coming out of the building and trying to figure out where the rest of his family was. It wasn't an easy story to cover.
A few years later, while working at a reporter in another state, I was assigned to do a fluff piece, typical 4th of July fireworks story. At a fireworks store. I can't explain the wave of panic that came over me. I did the story.... and got the heck out of there as fast as I could. I kept one eye on the exit and stayed as close to the doors as I could.
Every year, a red and white tent sets up just outside our neighborhood (we're right by a major highway) with huge signs screaming "Fireworks!!!" Smaller signs warn "No smoking." I drive by, tighten my grip on the steering wheel and vow never to set foot in there.
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