By: Kevin M. Hibshman
Growing up in a small town can be boring when you are young. Time seems infinite and even though we treasured our Summer vacations, The thrill would lose effect by mid-July. My sister and I along with our friend from across the street, Brenda, became ambulance chasers. Whenever the town fire siren would go off, day or night, we would rush to the corner of our street, about a two-minute run, where we could watch as the emergency apparatus would roll out. The town siren was somewhat akin to an air-raid siren. It blasted across the entire town to alert all the volunteer firefighters that they were being summoned to the station. The siren was especially eerie at night when there was no noise to compete with its doomsday bellow as it echoed off of every building and found its way down every empty street.
During our careers as ambulance chasers we had witnessed quite a few low-key events where there were no injuries and very little effort was needed to control whatever situation had spontaneously erupted..However, there had been a few calls that were quite disturbing and would linger in town lore forever. One of the most significant scenarios occurred on a perfectly tranquil June morning when our neighbor a few houses down the street,was trying to relight her gas water heater. It was located in her basement next to an ancient cistern that had an enormous concrete lid covering it. My unsuspecting neighbor was not aware of a gas leak where fumes had collected in the cistern. As she bent over to light the pilot light on the water heater, she ignited the fumes, causing a tremendous explosion that lifted the concrete slab off the top of the cistern and flung it four feet across the basement floor.
My father and I were in our living room watching television when we felt the tremor. The TV set seemed to jump up into the air to our mutual shock. Our first thought was that someone had driven their car into the stump of the enormous maple tree that protruded into the street next to our front porch.
We raced outside to find our neighbor screaming in absolute terror as she flung her badly burnt arms in the air. The skin of her arms was hanging loosely from the bone. Luckily, another neighbor had called 911 as soon as they’d heard the explosion so help arrived quickly. The blast had severed the house in two, leaving a huge crack right down the middle from the roof to the living room where all of the windows had shattered. The neighbor lady received second and third degree burns on her face and arms but recovered completely. The vision of the split house and the sound of my neighbor’s anguished screams will never leave my memory.