Pre-Trauma Momma Me remembers the story of the two local boys, aged 10 & 8, who accidentally set fire to a scrap yard – where they had sprayed gasoline all around and then continued to play, completely oblivious to the danger – until the entire place exploded around them. (One boy was burned over 98% of his body – you read that right, he survived – and the other 28%.) Pre-Trauma Momma me remembers my judgement of those boys at that time. “Well at least the trouble-makers were hurt instead of innocent people.” “They deserved to get hurt doing what they did.”
It’s 25 years later, and those brothers are still alive. 25 years later, I am a mom to traumatized children. I know a lot about kids who do things they shouldn’t do, regardless of how their parents try to parent them away from dangerous situations. I am a parent of children whose 10 year old was doused in gasoline (thank God no fire) because the 8 year old broke into the neighbor’s garage and stole some, thinking it’d be fun to play with. I am the lucky parent without burned children and whose house did not explode or whose child did not burn down the neighbor’s house with them inside accidentally.
The brothers from the fire have spent the last 25 years (after recovering) trying to help other kids who have been burned, and to help prevent kids from doing what they did. Now in their mid 30’s, it’s still a message they continue to share. The older boy, the one who was burned the worst, lost his arms and legs and endured over 100 surgeries as a 10 year old child. This “trouble-maker” as I labeled him back then was placed into foster care with his brother after the incident by their mother (who couldn’t take care of two severely burned children and their younger siblings). So here he is, basically his entire body burned, he’s awake, not in a coma, he knows his brother is hurt too, but he doesn’t get to see him, and he’s completely alone as he undergoes these horrible procedures burn victims go through. And when he comes through it – he and his brother, now foster kids, now “nobody’s kids”, “trouble-makers”, start a campaign to help other kids, to prevent other kids from doing what they did.
And I judged them as deserving what they got.
I am ashamed of my 25 years ago judgemental self, who lacked the compassion for 2 little boys who “should have known better” but didn’t, who gave no thought at all to the future of these two little boys and where they might end up.
It also makes me realize that people that judge my kids, my family, not knowing what my kids have been through, not knowing what my kids are going through, not knowing how we are parenting our kids and how hard we are trying to get them on the right track, to help them see the bigger picture, these people are only judging from that one snapshot, that one event that they see in our lives. They don’t know what they don’t know, what they haven’t experienced. And maybe they too will be looking back in that moment years from now and be horrified by their thoughts and actions in that moment of time. So maybe I can allow some grace to them, having stood in their shoes myself. I can try, at least.
For the story on the fire, see the news stories at: http://kwqc.com/2016/02/04/miracle-from-mccabes-25-years-after-the-fire/