Firecrackers and Trains Don’t Mix

Fireworks and Trains Don't MixBy, Nan Claire Falkner

On a hot Fourth of July in 1991, four kids in a trans-am drove to a vacant industrial park to set off a thousand firecrackers they had bought in another county. It was fun and loud.

Afterwards, the teenagers loaded up and easing the car across the railroad tracks when Steve suddenly shouted STOP! The driver slammed on his brakes just as a 60 mph freight train coming around the corner hit the car.

The trans-am blew up in pieces, and the kids went spinning off in another direction. The responding firemen couldn’t believe it – “Not a scratch on the kids”.


75 thoughts on “Firecrackers and Trains Don’t Mix

  1. Nan,

    I just knew what story you were going to write when I saw this week’s photo prompt. I am so glad that none of our kids were hurt – not even a scratch.

    Thank God.


    • Thanks Sandra, This was such a scary incident and usually I’m the one that knows when the kids need help – but this time it was Mike. He said “There’s something wrong.” And then the phone rang and it was Steven telling us about the train wreck. Nan

    • Gee Chris, You started the death defying incidents. You drowned and thank God, Dad didn’t give up on you like the doctor did. But by the grace of God, I still have all of my babies! Mom

    • Thank you Liz! Chris (number 3 son) drowned in a pool in Irvine, CA in 1982 and the doctor had given up on him – but Mike jumped out of the water and started CPR again and the third time he blew into Chris – his chest expanded enough and the water pushed out of his chest. Thank God Mike was a paramedic in College and he saved Chris’ life. I feel we have a guardian Angel and I am so thankful for it. Number 2 son had a medical emergency that could have easily killed him – and a doctor friend of ours diagnosed him in our family room, saving Brian’s life. And then Keith, several incidents – one guy went up on the sidewalk and tried to run him down. We are lucky indeed! Nan 🙂

  2. An old woman scolded Connie one day for using the word luck. “There’s no such thing as luck,” she said. “You were BLESSED!” These kids were blessed with a miracle. Great story, Nan. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Dear Russell, we have a story for each kid – and I know it sounds unbelievable – but they really did happen! Steven in the car made front page news in the Shawnee Sun the fifth of July. These were miracles! Tell Connie HI for us! Nan 🙂

    • Dear Ellespeth, My son became very religious after that and I’m not kidding. He heard someone say STOP in his head and that’s what he screamed to his friend. They were saved by the grace of God – I truly believe this. Nan 🙂

  3. Oh, wow, Nan. What a shocker of an ending! Was this based on a true story? This is one of those moments when you know the angels are watching and standing by. Great story.

    • Dear Amy, Yes, it really did happen, Mike knew something had happened to Steven but I didn’t and we had gone home to change for the fireworks show when the phone rang and Steven told us – it was unbelievable like watching it happen to someone else. I was in a daze and by the time we had Steven in our car and out there at the railroad tracks – you could see the engine about a long ways down the track – the fireman thought the kids would be dead but they weren’t. I know I have a lot of stories to tell you all, but this is one of the worst – and then when Chris drowned and Mike revived him after the doctor had stopped. That is a whole other story. Nan 🙂

  4. Talk about a lucky moment!

    I was a little confused by a few things, as written: if they’d already shot of the fireworks, why did the car explode? And it’s not clear that when Steve yells “stop!” and the train immediately hits the trans am, how did the boys go flying off in another direction? Thrown from the car? The 100 word limit is challenging, but I feel like I’m missing something here….

    Thank goodness your son and his friends survived this!! It must have been horrifying.

    • Dear Dawn, I know this is probably confusing, but what happened on July 4th, 1991 was a miracle. Steven was with his friends and went to let off firecrackers (which are against the law in our town) in another community. Then after they set them off, they started back across the train tracks when Steve shouted STOP! The car was split in 3 pieces, the engine went down the tracks, the cab (what the kids were in) went spinning away from the impact and the rest of the car was in little pieces. There really isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about this and the incident when Chris drowned and Mike revived him. I swear this happened and Steven has become very religious because he experienced it. Nan 🙂

  5. So am I reading this right? The freight train wasn’t derailed? If so, that’s also a miracle.
    Thinking back to my two children when they were young, my daughter would have been far more likely to pull a stunt like that, than my son would have done!
    The things our offspring put us through D:

  6. Wow Nan so glad none of the kids were hurt, what an amazing lucky escape. Someone was certainly watching over them that day. Thanks for sharing this. Dee

    • Dear Jennifer, I know what you mean. Our friends probably wouldn’t have believed it either except for the news on tv and the front page of the Shawnee Sun the next day they printed. It really did happen – exactly like this story says so it’s not fiction. Real life is stranger than fiction and our lives (Mike & mine) have had some real humdingers and weird stuff happen. Thanks for reading this – I swear to GOD this is true – and of course people here in town know it because of the news and the kids. Steven was sitting shotgun (front seat passenger) and 2 others in the back seat. Read more on my blog “About Me” if I did it right. Thanks, Nan

  7. My first reaction was, ” yeah, right.”
    But after reading the comments and realizing that this was a true story, my reaction now is “wow, unbelievable, how grateful you must be, and how grateful your son must be.”

    Whatever possessed him to yell stop on the railroad tracks?


    • Dear Randy, I don’t tell people when I meet them about this because it sounds too far-fetched, and a lot of people don’t like being told about a miracle happening – but it did. All our relatives know of this and of course our friends and the boys and their wives. Steven says that he heard someone say STOP inside his head so he yelled at Dan (Who was driving the car) and screamed “STOP” too. There is more on my blog site if you want to read it too under “About Me” Thanks! Nan

      • I just did. Wow.
        Too much excitement! My heart was racing just reading about what your son and your husband went through at the pool – and worrying about the other three boys as it was happening – especially the baby.

    • Dear Tracey, I know what you mean and agree. It is scary raising kids. My children are all grown up now so they are experiencing worrying about their own children – praying for them to be safe. Nan

  8. Holy Moly! I can’t believe this is a true story! Proof once again that kids do not keep us young, they age us prematurely! 😉 Thankfully they all survived completely unscathed (physically, anyway)

    • Dear Erin, Yes, I probably should have, but true life is stranger than fiction. Our friends here know of all these near tragedies. Thank goodness things have settled down since then. I appreciate you reading and stopping by. Nan

  9. No more fireworks, no doubt; and more slowing down BEFORE the train tracks. I’m not surprised the paper printed the story.
    I imagine all those family incidents have made you very close indeed.

    • Dear Subroto, I know it sounds like it couldn’t happen – but it really did. And, we had a son that drowned. The doctor had given up on him, so Mike took over and with the third breath, Chris finally reacted. We have been truly blessed. Thanks for reading. Nan

  10. Nan, it was outstanding that those kids survived. I do believe firmly in divine intervention. I believe we each are given an angel to watch over us. Many of us are also given great parents. Well done. 🙂 — Suzanne

    • Dear Snow, Thank you for reading and commenting. I’ve always been a little self-conscious when telling this story but it is true! And their are similar life-threatening incidents with the other kids. We are very fortunate! Thanks Nan

  11. Nan, I remember you calling me and telling me what happened. God had other plans for each of those riders in the car. The story pulls you in and you can’t wait to turn the page. Great job. Ann


    • My dearest twin sister (the best in the world!) Thanks so much for reading and commenting on my story. I knew you’d remember it! I’ll talk to you later in the day (it’s 12:20 AM on tax day. Love ya, Me Nan

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