The Bombs Bursting In Air

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Fireworks over a residential neighborhood (Photo by Kimberly Dijkstra)

Ever since I was a child I’ve loved the Fourth of July. We usually spent it at our grandparents’ vacation home in the Catskills and it involved a makeshift parade with folded newspaper hats and pot covers as cymbals. We gathered at the community flagpole and pledged allegiance and sang patriotic songs. We did not, however, have fireworks.

It’s a little different these days in that regard. Long Islanders seem to have exempted themselves from the law that makes fireworks illegal in New York and Independence Day seems to be expanding into “Independence Month” with fireworks being set off on any random day at any random time, even through the late hours of the night.

While I don’t anticipate that this would change anytime soon, I do want to dedicate this column to those whose lives are affected by the “bombs bursting in air.”

• I’ll be praying for children who are frightened by the loud noise, especially those with autism or other challenges. Families close the windows and turn up the air conditioning and play music to mute the sounds on the Fourth of July, but an unexpected “explosion” at 11:30 at night on July 10 can be quite alarming.

• I’ll be praying for veterans who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder for whom the fireworks bring them back to the sights, smells, and sounds of war.

• I’ll be praying for immigrants who left their hometowns because of violence including gunshots and bombs, whether it was Northern Ireland or El Salvador. I have already prepared the priest from Nigeria who lives in our parish for his first July 4 here. For the past four years he served in the northeastern part of his country where Boko Haram regularly set off bombs and shot people. I assured him he will be safe here since our expressions of loud patriotism are just that.

• I’ll be praying for pet owners who suffer along with their pets when the aural assault takes place.

• I’ll be praying for those receiving hospice care at home, whose peaceful last days will have the Fourth of July “soundtrack” to send them off to God.

• I’ll be praying for those whose jobs require them to get up at 3 a.m. and so need to rest early in the evening.

• I’ll be praying for anyone who injures themselves or others, and for the doctors and nurses who will try to mend them.

As I said, I don’t realistically expect that the fireworks craze will go away. But perhaps people will keep these folks in mind during the days after the Fourth. It is unkind and even harmful to fire off loud incendiary devices late into the night once Independence Day has passed. I hope we can celebrate some freedom from noise in the days and weeks ahead.

With that said, I wish everyone a happy Independence Day and continue to thank God for the privilege of living in the land of the free and the home of the brave with all its blessings.

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Pastor of St. Bernard's since 2013 and known for his engaging homilies and community presence, Father Ralph Sommer is also a treasured columnist for the Levittown Tribune.

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