Let’s be mindful of things that go ‘bang!’ in the night

She wasn’t a complicated animal.

Our first golden retriever, Emma, just wanted to be doing whatever we were doing. It didn’t matter if that involved a long trail hike on a Sunday afternoon, or sitting at the dining room table paying bills, or sorting laundry; she was always right there.

So of course, when friends were over that early July evening so many years ago and started fiddling around with small pyrotechnics, she was right there.

Until she wasn’t.

We scoured the neighborhood frantically late into that night. Not yet parents of humans, we sort of regarded Emma and Wilson, the wily Brittany spaniel, as our kids. Losing them was unthinkable.

It turned out Emma had sprinted away from the house when the loud noises began, likely in fear for her life, until she came to the restaurant parking lot at the end of our street. As a couple of unsuspecting patrons from the eatery opened their car door in preparation to head home, a flash of gold fur shot into their back seat and coiled itself into a quivering ball on the floor. Dogs do this. It isn’t complicated.

Needless to say, when this benevolent couple dialed the number on Emma’s tag near dawn on that sleepless night, we were pleased to hear from them.

It’s a happy feature of our species that there are good Samaritans to be found in some of the most unexpected places.

People who serve in uniform do good Samaritan work pretty much every day. And it turns out many of them react to fireworks in a way not unlike that good late dog of ours — for indisputably more legitimate reasons.

We heard about it this week from someone who’s local and vocal where matters involving former service people are concerned. Mike Barbour, veterans and seniors advocate for Naperville Township and a Vietnam vet, pointed out that not everyone is a fan of the big bang that has come to define our commemoration of independence from the Commonwealth — the booming that invariably rises in frequency and intensity at this time of year, if local Naperville Police Department reports are any indication.

“As one who suffers from (post-traumatic stress) I can tell you I never look forward to these holidays,” Barbour said in his timely letter to the editor. “It is not the fireworks that we know about, it is the ones that are set off in the neighborhoods. There is no warning, just a loud explosion. I have dived for the floor on several occasions when one went off. Many of us have flashbacks and it takes several weeks to fully recover.”

I don’t know about you, but this wasn’t something to which I’d given much thought before. Not sure why not; it’s certainly a logical reflex for someone who has worked in an environment where the sudden pass of bomb-bearing aircraft or a well-concealed roadside explosive can change everything in an instant.

You may have seen this issue come up on social media this week as well. The widely posted item shows a photo of a former serviceman standing in his front yard alongside a sign that reads, “Combat veteran lives here / Please be courteous with fireworks.”

That’s all. Just a little courtesy.

I submit we can do better than that.

Somewhere between wrapping the front porch in stars-and-stripes bunting and slathering that fresh-grilled burger with ketchup, I suggest we take a moment to ponder how the Fourth became something worth celebrating. Consider those upstart revolutionaries who dared to suppose the new land across the pond brought the promise of a better life for them and their fellow travelers. Let’s do some thinking about all that’s been done to protect that better life in the 238 years since signatures were put to that iconic declaration of sovereignty. Certainly let’s pause to acknowledge the neighbors, friends and relations who’ve been willing to put everything on the line to defend that term we so casually toss around: freedom.

Those were, and are, some true good Samaritans. The least we can do is honor them with a little peace and quiet — or at the very least, a heads-up when we plan to make some holiday racket — if that’s what serves them best.

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