"It's hard because he's stronger than I am," explained Frances Smith, mother of Martinez Smith-Payne. "He was telling me, 'Mom, it's okay, it's not at bad as it looks.'"
But she said there's no way her rising Walbridge Elementary School fifth grader totally understands how bad it is.
"To see the extremes that fireworks can do, it's a horrifying scene," she went on to say.
In fact, a handful of emergency vehicles flanked the 5500 block of Genevieve, the location of her uncle's North St. Louis home, Friday evening. She was cooking dinner, when her her eight- and 10-year-old sons went outside to play.
"Like a small cannon," recalled Martinez's uncle, Stanley Claxton. "It was like no other firework."
"Five minutes after they went out, they were booming on the door," said Smith.
"And he came in, and he didn't have a hand," added Claxton.
He said that within minutes his nephew was carted off to the hospital. The younger brother was left behind to fill in the blanks.
"I mean, that's the direction they took off in," Claxton pointed out across the street from his home, which is where he says a house if notorious for selling fireworks illegally.
The eight-year-old said he'd found a gold, ball-shaped firecracker on the ground. Martinez grabbed it, and their 12-year-old friend offered up a lighter.
"If he'd had it in the wrong spot, it would've killed him," Claxton explained. "That's what the doctors explained."
Martinez was burned on his face and chest; singed were his hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. On his left hand, surgeons were only able to salvage his thumb.
"He told me last night, 'when I get better, I'm never going outside again,'" said Smith. "I'm still trying to see how to tell him that shouldn't stop him. Just be careful what you pick up."
Martinez is set to have a second surgery Monday.
As for the investigation, police said there might be more to this story when it comes to the origin of those fireworks.