What to Know
- A family wants to remind the public that illegal fireworks pose a danger not just to the person lighting them but to people around them
- Jala Smith was a month old, strapped in her stroller at a block party in Brooklyn, when a firework went screaming into her stroller
- She was burnt so badly her legs were "burnt to to a crisp"; two years later, she's a happy toddler but still bears the scars of that day
Thousands of people are hurt every year in fireworks-related accidents, according to the National Fire Protection Association, and as one Brooklyn family knows all too well — they don't all happen on the Fourth of July.
Jala Smith was only 1 month old when her family brought her to a block party in Brooklyn in September 2016. In a festive mood, someone at the party decided to light illegal fireworks.
"He lit the rocket. It went into the air but it didn't get all the way into the air," recalled Jala's mother, Quanisha Smith. "The wind must have shifted it because it went straight into the wall."
The firework bounced off the wall, then screamed straight into Jala's stroller as she sat strapped inside.
"It hit the stroller and I saw a spark," said Quanisha Smith. "The stroller is on fire with the baby in it, and it was just panic."
Jala's legs were burnt: "They were black to a crisp," her mother said.
Jala was rushed to Staten Island University Hospital Northwell Health, where Dr. Michael L. Cooper and his team cared for the baby at the burn unit. They also care for an average of 15 fireworks injury victims each year around the Fourth of July.
"The dangers are there," said Cooper. "These are explosives, they can cause scars."
"Sometimes these patients don't get back to work. Sometimes those patients will avoid going out because they're too self-conscious or emotional or traumatized by the disfigurement."
Two years after being severely burned by the illegal firework, Jala is running around like any other toddler, smiling and laughing and telling her parents, "I love you." But not everything is normal. Jala still has pain, bears a scar, and her six brothers and sisters are also traumatized.
"They're scared of fireworks now, so they don't even want to be around it," said Quanisha Smith. "They don't even want to hear it. When they hear it, they run and hide."
Which is why Quanisha Smith wants to spread the message about fireworks on this July 4th holiday: "Please don't light it. Don't play with fireworks at all. Any bottle rockets, any fireworks. It is so dangerous to everyone."