WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — News 18 has shared West Lafayette Firefighter Curtis Shidler’s story before. How he lost his eye playing with fireworks while off-duty. It’s a safety story worth telling every summer, but a recent reunion makes it news you have not yet heard.
Fireworks should go up in the air.
“This is where the fireworks should have happened,” Shidler said while high up on a fire engine ladder. “But I stopped it with my face.”
Shidler has a good sense of humor about it.
“And that’s how you do it with one eye, right there,” he said as he brought the ladder down.
Two years ago, Shidler lost an eye in a fireworks accident.
“Went to put one in the tube, and it was already loaded,” he explained. “And shot up and hit me in the face, like right through here.”
He was airlifted to a hospital but doesn’t remember much else.
“I remember getting locked into the helicopter on the cot and I remember the rotors going around,” he said.
As a firefighter, Shidler knows what it’s like to help people and not know the outcome of their injuries.
“I’ve never had that happen to me to where I got to meet somebody I helped,” Shidler said.
That’s what made meeting the person who helped him that day so much cooler.
“We had a pretty long talk, just about how things went and actually what I looked like cause I was always interested in what I looked like that night,” Shidler said.
He had no idea he was such a chatterbox.
“She said I kept asking as soon as I got locked in the helicopter, ‘How much is this going to cost me?’ That was my main worry,” he said.
Their reunion was mere happenstance, but it started a one-of-a-kind friendship.
“I actually got invited for a ride-along with them in Terre Haute,” said Shidler. “So once our schedules line up, I’ll be able to go fly with them – so that will be pretty neat.”
Life with one eye took some getting used to. He still struggles with depth perception, but his sense of smell has significantly improved.
“That’s rotten,” he said. “I can smell that.”
It’s a superpower he doesn’t always enjoy, especially after he takes off his fire gear.
“It’s got that stench – that sweaty stench,” he said.
But it does make for a cool party trick!
“It’s just like a giant contact basically, just pop it out and it’s kind of a joke now,” Shidler said.
The jokes keep coming here at Fire Station No. 3. For instance, a personalized map book cover with a picture of Shidler and an eye patch.
“That’s perfect. That’s hilarious,” he said.
But humor aside, Shidler knows what happened to him was serious. He doesn’t mind being the reason some people are more careful now.
“Could have been 10 times worse, 100 times worse,” said Shidler. “I couldn’t even be here today.”
Shidler said better communication would have helped avoid his accident.
If you are setting off fireworks, it’s smart to announce when you’re lighting one so everyone around you is on the same page.