If the tree hadn’t been there, the explosion would have put someone in the hospital… or worse…
Nearly the whole family - parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandma - was sitting in the middle of a field watching the 4th of July fireworks show in a small town in Utah called Mt. Pleasant. They always put on a good show.
About 5 minutes into the show, glowing embers from the fireworks started gently falling down around us like black and orange snow. It was then that I suspected that maybe we were a little too close to the explosions.
A few minutes later we heard a HUGE explosion to our left.
An undetonated firework had fallen out of the sky and then blew up just a few feet away. The tree just to our left burst into flames and shot pink and red sparks across the dry, grassy field where we were all sitting. The sparks ignited the tall, dead grass to our right.
In less than 10 seconds we were surrounded by flames and engulfed in smoke.
Someone yelled, “GET TO THE CARS!”
Parents scrambled to grab children. People panicked as they threw plastic lawn chairs in the back of the truck and tried to make sure everyone was accounted for.
Behind the heart beating in my ears from adrenaline rush I could hear faint sirens and screaming.
As I ran away from the chaos, I turned around and saw grandma still sitting in her chair, surrounded by flames and smoke. I ran over, and found her flustered and overwhelmed. “Let’s get you out of here,” I said. And I practically picked her up and put her into a nearby truck.
As I closed the door to the truck, I spun around and looked for my wife. I found her swatting at 14-foot tall flames with a blanket.
“ANG! GET IN THE CAR!” I screamed.
“I saw this in a movie once!” she yelled back as she continued to beat the flames with a fleece blanket… which was almost completely melted. She finally ran over to the car and got in.
“The blankets they use to put out fires in the movies are wet,” said Grandma.
The flames crept under the car beside us which was parked next to a fire hydrant, preventing firefighters from accessing it. The woman inside the car panicked and started weeping. She couldn’t get it started. We were all worried it was going to explode.
She finally got the car into neutral, and a few men bravely (or foolishly) ran over and literally shoved her car out of the way so the firemen could come in and put out the flames.
It was an intense and VERY memorable 4th of July.
Here’s a picture of the crater where the firework exploded next to the tree.
And here’s a screenshot from a video my wife took from inside the truck as the firemen rushed in to put out the fire:
I’ve had some time now to process this experience. (I’m still not clear how everyone made it out safe and unscathed. One of my nephews actually slept through the entire thing!) And the same lesson keeps coming back to my mind over and over again…
What do you do when something blows up and chaos ensues?
When that firework exploded there were lots of different reactions. Some people ran for safety. Some people (my wife and the firemen) tried to put out the fire. Some people (grandma) froze. Some people panicked, and some people stayed calm.
It got me thinking about how we react in life when an unexpected emotional bomb goes off in our relationship, or things get chaotic when life doesn’t go according to plan.
Relationship science shows that moments of emotional disconnect from our partner can cause just as much panic and pain as a physical threat. In her book Hold Me Tight, Dr. Sue Johnson shares:
“When love doesn’t work, we hurt. Indeed, ‘hurt feelings’ is a precisely accurate phrase, according to psychologist Naomi Eisenberger of the University of California. Her brain imaging studies show that rejection and exclusion trigger the same circuits in the same part of the brain, the anterior cingulate, as physical pain.”
When your feelings get hurt in your relationship, or you feel lonely, neglected, or disrespected what do you do? How do you react?
Do you run away? Do you panic and scream? Do you immediately try to put out the fire? Do you freeze up, break down, and weep behind the wheel? Or are you calm and collected?
You can learn a lot about your relationship from the way you react to these moments of hurt or chaos.
Next week when I get back from vacation, I’ll talk a bit about how you can learn to be the cool, calm, and colletected one when life blows up.
P.S. Want to see the video of the fire after the explosion went off?
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