Book recounts how firecracker damaged man’s hand as a youth

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

UNION, NJ — Reid Anderson never knew when he woke up on June 9, 1964, that this would be the last day he would ever have 10 fingers.

Back in 1964, Reid was the same as any other child who lived in Union, innocent and curious. He would go to his friend’s house and play, listen to music and daydream. Everything was fine until Reid’s friend showed him two egg cartons full of homemade firecrackers. He and his friend went down to the river with a book of matches to light them, but they all blew out. Neil still had one firecracker in his hand and one in his pocket, when they both went off without being lit.

The one in Neil’s pocket gave him a big welt, but the one in his hand did far worse damage.

Now, 60 years later, Anderson recently self-published a book, “A Boy Named Reid,” which tells the story of his experience with the firecrackers.

“In the book, I sanitized it so much that I just said the firecracker popped in my hand and it started to bleed and it hurt badly,” said Anderson in a recent visit to the office of Worrall Community Newspapers Inc., the publishers of LocalSource. “In reality, it was horrifying and gruesome. It actually blew my hand apart. The two middle fingers were actually hanging down by pieces of skin as I ran back to the house where my mom was in the backyard.

“There was no 9-1-1 back then, so what she had to do was call the operator and she couldn’t even get the words out. She didn’t really know what happened. She just saw the kind of condition I was in afterward.”

“A Boy Named Reid” tells the tale of Reid’s experience with fireworks and the aftermath, at a level easy enough for children to understand without being shocked or scared. The first part of the book talks about Reid’s life as a normal 8-year-old, at least until the firecracker goes off. It then describes his time in the hospital, his return to school, his limitations and how he overcomes them. The artwork was done by Anderson himself, via computer images.

The middle of the book has photographs of Reid as a youth. He includes three dozen photos of actual letters from classmates, transcribed beneath each one. The following section is news coverage of the incident by the Union Leader, published by Worrall Community Newspapers Inc., detailing the injury, recovery, a fund drive and a warning of the dangers of fireworks. A photo is also there of Reid and Phil Rizzuto, famed Yankee sportscaster, sitting on the front steps of Neil’s house. Finally, there are discussion topics and comprehensive summary so that teachers can use this book as a guide to classes of the dangers of fireworks and the consequences of handling them.

The last page talks about Anderson, a music composer /performer whose music can be found on iTunes, Amazon MP3, GooglePlay, YouTube, Rumble, and on CD and DVD. Anderson has earned a degree in mechanical technology and spent 10 years in drafting and CAD before going back to school to support a 30-year career in information technology and computers. He also became an NJ state-licensed contractor and now an author.

Although he grew up in Union and his family still lives there, Anderson now lives in Denville.

He also made a folksy compact disc to serve as the soundtrack of the Audiobook, “A Boy Named Reid.”

“It’s real folksy and kind of country music-style. And it’s kid-friendly. It’s a collection of eight of my songs that I thought might work with this and it did. It worked real well with the story. Everything worked. Everything just came together. St. Barnabas, the children’s hospital, now RWJ Barnabas, they’re the ones who took me in. I sent them a dozen books as a donation.”

“June 9 was the anniversary date of the accident.”

“This is all available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.”

“I was so proud that I was able to get this done,” said Anderson. “I’m so happy if it’s able to help other people, especially kids. Keep following your dreams and don’t ever give up.”

For more information, email [email protected].
Also see the audiobook, A Boy Named Reid, at www.YouTube/Reid.Anderson.

Photos Courtesy of Reid Anderson