Happy endings don’t always erase unhappy beginnings and middles. But Monday’s news that little Ethan had finally been rescued — after a seven-day ordeal as a hostage in a 6-foot by 8-foot bunker — still packed a powerfully positive closing punch.

The gripping saga started last week when 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded a school bus in Midland City, Ala., insisting that an 8-year-old and 6-year-old leave with him.

When the driver, 66-year-old Charles Albert Poland Jr., bravely defied that demand, Dykes shot and killed him.

Dykes then took Ethan, who turns 6 years old today, with him to that underground bunker on his property.

Law enforcement personnel’s repeated efforts to resolve the situation peacefully by reasoning with the captor failed. With every passing hour, the futility of those negotiations became more obvious.

So on Monday afternoon, the FBI conducted a successful rescue mission, killing Dykes in the process.

Ethan’s liberation, though, couldn’t negate this story’s chilling reminder of what happened 44 days ago in Newtown, Conn., where a lone gunman murdered 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Ponder the sheer madness of twisted souls putting schoolchildren, educators and school bus drivers in the line of fire.

Ponder this all too familiar modern word pairing: “School shooting.”

Debate about how to counter this awful — and seemingly growing — hazard continues across the nation.

In our own community, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and City Council responded to the Sandy Hook massacre by putting a police officer in each of the city’s public elementary schools.

Also in response to the horror in Connecticut, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley announced Monday that he is seeking a tax increase, with a significant portion of the new revenue funding an additional 19 police officers for a “cluster” strategy to protect both public and private elementary schools.

The mayors’ plans are pertinent topics for other editorials on other days. So is the push by President Barack Obama and others for tougher gun laws.

In this editorial, however, we celebrate the deliverance from evil of Ethan, who enjoyed “SpongeBob SquarePants” cartoons Tuesday while looking forward to his birthday party today.

We also marvel at the courage and skill of the FBI special agents who got Ethan out of harm’s way.

And we honor the memory of Charles Albert Poland Jr., an unlikely but authentic American hero who gave his life to save the lives of kids on a school bus.