Image of the x-ray lodged in Laura Kaatze's leg
Temple Terrace, Florida - The Fourth of July Fireworks are an annual tradition for the Kaatze family
Bill, his wife Laura and their two young sons were enjoying the grand finale Wednesday night, when around 9:30 the family's fun came to an awful end.
"All of a sudden she just leaped out of her chair and I was kind of surprised because she was screaming her leg was on fire," recalls Bill Kaatze.
Unsure what was wrong, but with blood everywhere, Laura was rushed to Florida Hospital Tampa, where doctors were amazed to discover a bullet lodged in her leg.
"The doctors couldn't believe it. This was a one in a million that it came so close to her main arteries," says Kaatze of his wife's injury.
Even more shocking was how that bullet missed the Kaatze's seven year-old son Max, who was sitting on his mother's lap.
"This little guy was extremely upset because he got thrown off her lap," says Max's father, grateful his son was not hit in the head.
Max told 10 News the entire situation was frightening and terrifying, especially seeing his mother covered in blood. He's not sure if he'll ever want to go out for another fireworks celebration again.
Regulars at the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club, where the display is held every year, could hardly believe the news of a the stray bullet.
"We just can't predict anymore. You wonder if there are any safe places at all anymore," said Sandi Turner who was at Wednesday night's display, but did not realize someone had been wounded.
Jamie Garofalo is a regular at the country club and served 42 years in the U.S. military.
"You've got to be some kind of special idiot to discharge any weapon up in the air," said Garofalo. "What goes up... must come down."
Garofalo says he fired numerous weapons as a member of special forces.
"This is the kind of thing I would expect in the Middle East where you see them with their AK-47s ripping off a whole magazine. This is not what America is about. Especially on July fourth."
Now Max's mother is recovering at home as doctors decide whether it's safe to remove the bullet still lodged in her leg.
In the meantime, her family, along with Temple Terrace Police, are urging others not to put anyone else at risk, by firing guns for fun.
"It's going to be hard for us to get back out there," says Kaatze. "This is a one in a million shot, but that's all it takes to change a life."
Unfortunately, what happened to the Kaatze family was not an isolated incident this past Fourth of July. Over in Safety Harbor, a man had a stray bullet rip through the bill of his hat, down his nose and out of his lower lip.
Two women in West Palm Beach were also hit by apparent celebratory gunfire, and four other injuries are suspected.
These incidents all happened despite a public awareness campaign put on by a non-profit called "Bullet Free Sky." The charity, started by the family of a child who was injured by a falling bullet on New Year's Eve, tries to discourage people from using celebratory gunfire.
Beau Zimmer, 10 News