Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Locals watch the fireworks from swings in a playground at Heritage Point Park in Dalton, Georgia, on Sunday, July 4, 2021.

At first, I thought the sharp booms were thunder. The staccato rhythm of the outbursts ruled out that possibility. I sat up in bed and wondered if my house was under attack.

I was about to jump out of bed when the source of the assault became crystal clear. It was fireworks. Not again! I thought. Why on earth tonight? OMG, it's Labor Day Eve.

Now I could add another holiday to my list of dreaded events — once festive days, desecrated by a siege of fireworks. Noisy, dangerous and filthy.

Worst of all, of course, is the Fourth of July. One year the fireworks made my windows tremble. A stray cat, legs spread-eagle, plastered himself to my screen door in terror. When the municipal fireworks mercifully concluded around midnight, the guys across the street prolonged the torment with their amateur pyrotechnics, even though a new workday had begun.

Another year I was heartened at the forecast for a wet Independence Day. But, as they say, the rain failed to dampen the spirits of the firecracker fanatics who rolled out the sparklers and the Roman candles five days before the 4th.

And every miserable day for a week the fireworks snapped, crackled and popped, despite the rain, night after night, spewing toxic chemicals into the air and shattering the peace of man and beast.

This year I was positively giddy to hear of a national fireworks shortage. But you wouldn't have known it in my house where I hunkered down for two war-zone evenings of "bombs bursting in air." One of my friends worried about her roof catching fire; another suffered through sleepless nights with her pets.

Around the world enlightened groups are working to ban fireworks. They point out the dangers of fires and injuries and the noise that terrifies animals in the wild and at home. I was at my vet's office in early July one year when a woman came in asking for the "fireworks medicine" for her dog.

Then there's the pollution. As Forbes puts it, "Fireworks create highly toxic gases and pollutants that poison the air, the water and the soil, making them toxic to birds, wildlife, pets, livestock — and people."

Isn't it time we began to think about celebrating the Fourth of July in more meaningful, less harmful ways?

We could:

* Write our representatives in Washington about issues of concern.

* Visit a presidential library.

* Memorize the Bill of Rights.

* Convince someone to register to vote.

* Thank God that Donald Trump is no longer in the Oval Office.

* Or read a book about the history of this nation.

Next year, let the sounds of the Fourth of July emanate from readers turning the pages of "The Confessions of Nat Turner" by William Styron, "No Ordinary Time" by Doris Kearns Goodwin or David McCullough's "John Adams."

Let freedom rustle.

Carolyn Mitchell is a former writer for The Chattanooga Times.

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Carolyn Mitchell