Samuel Billings was only seven years old, but tonight he got to stay up late. His family was spending the Independence Day holiday in Independence, Missouri, with his grandparents.
Stretched out on the lawn on Grandma’s puffy quilt, Sam and Grandpa waited for the fireworks celebration to begin.
“Sam, do you realize that we are on the very spot our pioneer ancestors stood on the night the stars fell?” Grandpa asked.
“When the stars fell?” Sam was confused. “What do you mean, Grandpa?”
Grandpa smiled and began the story. Sam listened with wonder.
George Pierce Billings was only seven years old, but no one had told him to go to bed. Never before had he been allowed to stay up so late. He was beginning to wish that he could go to bed, but the air was thick with suspense and fear. Sleep was impossible.
Father had taken his wagon down to the river time and time again. George had wanted to ride along, but there was no room. Father was helping people move out of Independence, Missouri, before morning. Angry men had threatened to burn anything and anybody still there when the sun rose.
George kept checking the night sky. Father had been gone a long time, and Mother was still busy packing. George was worried. His job was to watch his little sister, but he was watching for sunrise, too.
Four-year-old Eunice was getting very tired. Leaning against the wooden porch, George cradled her small curly-haired head in his lap and thought about their Missouri home. He had been only five when they had come, and they had planned to stay forever. He had watched and tried to help his father clear the land. Together, they had built this home and the barn. Father had planted crops on most of the 34 acres, not only for his family, but also for the many new Saints who would not have time to raise a crop that season. George liked Missouri. He liked playing in the trees. He liked catching fireflies. “Even the fireflies must be sleeping now,” he thought.
Then he remembered the big fire. Father had cut 24 tons of hay and hauled it six miles to the property rented by Bishop Partridge from Governor Boggs. He had stacked it there in a long, tall pile. Then, last month, someone had set it on fire and burned it to the ground. George felt sorry for his father.
The night was very dark. Where was Father? Why didn’t he come to get them?
George thought he heard an explosion. Light flashed, but he couldn’t tell where it had come from. In fear, he jumped to his feet, startling Eunice. Light exploded all around him. No, it was above him, high above him—higher than any cannon or musket could fire. George could not believe his eyes! They were fixed on lights in the heavens bursting and streaming across the sky.
George rushed into the house, Eunice right behind him. “Mother! Mother! The sky is on fire!” Mother pulled them close. “Have the mobs come for us already?” she cried.
“No, Mother, no!” George pulled her to the doorway. “It’s not the mobs, Mother. It’s a miracle from Heavenly Father!”
And so it was. The heavens danced with a glorious meteor shower for the rest of the night. Stars raced back and forth across the November sky, lighting the way for the fleeing Saints. In the miraculous light, George saw his father’s wagon returning. Cheered and strengthened by the heavenly signs, George’s family and many others safely settled themselves along the Missouri River banks before sunrise. The meteor showers continued until dawn.
As Grandpa ended the story, the fireworks began. They were spectacular. But even better, Sam thought, was the memory of a miracle performed in the heavens long ago. Sam and Grandpa watched the sky, remembering.