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It was around 11:30 on Monday night when I was roused from my most peaceful slumber by incoming fire that must have sounded like the cacophony that careens through the ears of foxhole dwellers. The booms were loud and persistent, the echoes long-lasting. Diving under the covers did no good.
In fact, the blasts were so thunderous I wanted to record them and play them for my Marine son to ask him if this is what it was like during his recent tour in Afghanistan.
I’ve never been to war, but it sounded like the music.
This surely is what that star-spangled banner must have experienced during the War of 1812, though please forgive me if I don’t feel quite so inspired to compose patriotic poetry, as was Frances Scott Key.
Oh, and did I mention that this was a week before the 4th of July?
Someone had consulted a calendar from a decidedly different decade.
Late-night fireworks a week before July 4?!?!?!.
In fact, this senseless surprise persisted for so long that if I hadn’t feared having the entire house in an uproar I would’ve called the police. Later I learned even the mayor was put off by these quiet-quellers. This is ridiculous.
I thought we only deregulated the type of fireworks that could be bought and sold. I didn’t know we also set aside the expectation that our residents would show good judgment and responsibility to their neighbors.
And it didn’t stop there.
Every night for a week, right after dark – thankfully a couple of hours earlier – we suddenly were made to believe we were living inside an echo chamber with a thousand drum lines playing at once.
We can attest that ear plugs are no defense for these auditory assaults, that 1,100 feet per second is really quicker than you think it is.
I don’t know when July 4th became the 12 Days of Independence: “On the third day of Independence, my true fireworks lover gave to me, three pounding cherry bombs, two streaking bottle rockets and a handful of unused M-80s from 1983.”
I’m all for having fun, but at the expense of an entire community and its ability to function normally?
Don’t we care about keeping children awake? What about scaring all our valuable Saddlebreds right in the middle of show season?
And why leave us the next day with streets lined with the debris of this warfare, discarded cartons and scraps strung along like shrapnel? “Don’t step on those, kids!”
On Sunday night – that would be July 3 – as the fireworks pounded on, a thunderstorm approached, offering a not-man-made noise-and-light show from the heavens. The thunder may have been louder, but we were yelling “come on, thunder!” There’s a natural purpose to that.
Thankfully, the storm – which fizzled – chased the match-lighters inside.
You are thinking about now that I am some sort of old fuddy-duddy party-pooper who doesn’t like to celebrate our nation’s birthday with a little sis, boom and ah.
Maybe I am a bit generationally challenged. The 4th of July in my family was a tradition of picnics and outings at parks around the area, some swimming and fried chicken.
We never once attended a fireworks show, though we did a couple of times hear similar levels of noise while watching Figure 8 races at the Sportsdrome. In those days, big public presentations we love so much were saved for exotic locales, far removed from farm country.
Our understanding of fireworks was limited to a few Roman candles, a sparkler stick, a string of firecrackers and reading the many signs along the road when we drove into Tennessee on family vacations.
And perhaps my adult years were jaded by living so near Disney and having the opportunity to see those nightly magical shows that flash over Cinderella’s Castle and the lagoon at EPCOT Center.
It’s not as if I have ignored fireworks and campaigned against them or something.
I once even rode a 30-mile round trip to downtown Orlando in the back of a pickup truck to watch the Disney-created community show over Lake Eola. I’ve watched spectacles through the windows of a high-rise restaurant, from balconies, porches, decks and patios, from a bouncing truck along a scoria road in the wilds of the North Dakota countryside and as the mostly unseen waves crashed up and down an otherwise dark New Smyrna Beach. I’ve even watched the shows from New York on TV and longed to be there.
And these past few years I’ve been pleased to be able to stand outside my front door or on my deck and enjoy a variety of wonderful and colorful celebrations sprinkled across the horizon.
But not on June 27.
These are true fireworks celebrations on July 4, not the fiery works of some neighborhood noise junkie who thinks he or she has a license to explode something because a holiday is approaching, not someone trying to launch hundreds of dollars’ worth of hard-earned money into the atmosphere.
Yes, a lot of cash is being thrown into the breeze by this trending and elaborate habit of ours.
I guess that’s cheaper than firing real shells, like those in Baltimore harbor nearly 300 years ago, but wouldn’t it be wise to limit the exposure to the one night out of the year when it provides a statement and not just a curse?
Fireworks are wonderful on the 4th, but for all those other days, I’ll take the fifth – or maybe reach for one.
You can read more columns by Steve Doyle at www.SentinelNews.com/columns.