Kimberly Santleben-Stiteler held her breath for just a second as she squeezed the trigger of the scoped rifle.
When the glow of that great big orange explosion lit up her face Saturday night, she says waves of relief — or maybe it was adrenaline — flowed throughout the rest of her body.
That garage-sized fireball had just killed .... her wedding dress. Her marriage of 14 years had finally been put out of its misery the day before in a Medina County courtroom, family members say.
Then the texts and Facebook messages started pouring in.
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“We were all getting messages asking if that was our explosion people were feeling and hearing around the county, up to at least 15 miles away,” Carla Santleben-Newport, Kimberly’s sister, told McClatchy. “It was like, ‘Uh, is everything okay over there’?”
The explosion she says was felt through parts of Medina County came from Kimberly’s divorce party, at their father’s farm in the small town of Lacoste, about 25 miles west of San Antonio. She had about 40 guests, who all cheered when the dress was no more, according to KSAT, which first reported on the explosive exclamation mark at the end of her marriage.
“I wanted to remove all things from our marriage from our house,” Kimberly, 43, told McClatchy. “Photos in the attic, ring in the safe (but probably going to sell it) and the dress I wanted to burn.
“I had a lot of advice and suggestions from friends and family, like donating it for premature babies and baptism gowns. However, to me, the dress represented a lie. I wanted to have a divorce party to burn the dress.”
But she didn’t just throw it in a campfire and shed a tear because things didn’t work out. Her dad and brother-in-law ratcheted the “burn the dress” idea up a notch with some exploding targets.
Kimberly went full-on target practice with the dress from 200 yards out. But that’s not all. The dress was rigged with $200 worth — or 20 pounds — of Tannerite, which is the explosive component of those explosive targets used for longer range firearms training. She honed her shooting skills with some practice before the party — because with that much Tannerite, the family wasn’t sure that shooting the dress from 100 yards away would be safe enough.
“We have a friend who is a bomb tech, and he kept saying, ‘that’s really a lot,’ like five different times, when we told him our plan, so we had to back it up,” Carla said.
But Kimberly still hit the bullseye — her wedding dress — on her first shot, Carla said.
“On the one hand, it was like being on set of some action movie. The explosion was huge,” Kimberly said. “It was liberating pulling that trigger. It was closure for all of us.”