A large crowd gathers at the seashore for a national-holiday fireworks celebration in July.
That was the festive Isle of Palms setting as Independence Day turned to night.
It also was the initially joyous scene in Nice, France, as Bastille Day turned to night.
Then radical Islamic terror struck again.
As the cumulative death toll on civilization climbs, so does chilling recognition about the vile force inflicting it — and its evidently expanding reach.
Of course, as Charleston area residents know all too well, not all 21st century hate-based atrocities are carried out in the name of Allah.
Yet most of them are.
And whether the fiends who commit them are card-carrying members of the Islamic State, al-Qaida, Boko Haram or other radical Islamic organizations, or merely inspired by the twisted ideology promoted by those groups, their victims are just as dead.
Among the places where radical Islamic terror has wrought wholesale carnage:
Baghdad, Mogadishu, Kabul, Jerusalem, Ankara (Turkey), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Madrid, Grozny (Russia), London, Brussels, Paris, Nice ...
New York, Fort Hood, Boston, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, Orlando ...
Among the casualties:
Loss of not just lives but patience — and faith.
Even many of us fairly accused of a numbing, detached, modern cynicism are increasingly shaken by the savage reality and rising frequency of these outrages. The regularity of mass murders induces a critical mass of despair.
What to do?
When we let terrorists force sweeping transformations in our way of life, they win.
Then again, when must grim “stuff happens” acceptance be replaced by urgent, collective determination to not just minimize this menace but destroy the vile enemies who pose it?
We lose focus on this defining test if we let less essential matters distract us.
Among the other allegedly pressing puzzles that should pale in comparison to this win-or-else mission:
Who should go to the bathroom where?
What can we do about the traffic mess in these parts?
When is this infernally hot — and yes, horribly humid — weather going to end?
Who will start at quarterback for the South Carolina Gamecocks and in the secondary for the Clemson Tigers?
And in much more serious dilemmas than football depth charts:
How can we close the wide — and widening? — racial divide re-exposed by recent harrowing events in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas?
Who are our best — or least worse — voting options for the presidency and other elective offices?
Another sign of the terrorizing times, from Tuesday’s Post and Courier:
“In an effort to enhance security, the University of South Carolina is implementing a clear bag policy for all ticketed athletic events beginning with the 2016-17 academic year. Approved bags must be clear plastic, vinyl or PVC that do not exceed 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches.”
Gee, what happened to our home-field advantage?
Now you can not only see what other people are bringing into the game in those clear plastic bags, you can see how the terror threat is warping our culture, one increased-security step at a time.
Sure, we need tighter protections from terrorists — and tougher gun laws.
Just don’t count on jihadists being unable to obtain firearms illegally.
Do count, though, on them being remarkably creative with non-gun weapons of mass mayhem, including trucks, car bombs, suicide bombs, knives, letter bombs, swords, shoe bombs — and airplanes.
As for cruel timing, consider not just that Bastille Day barbarism but the suicide bombing that killed 72 people while targeting Christians 3½ months ago in Lahore, Pakistan — on Easter Day.
Consider, too, that the more quickly we Americans can resolve residual racial resentments, the sooner we can unite against the common — and abominable — foe.
Our state’s senior U.S. senator, consistently hawkish Lindsey Graham, offered this fitting reaction to the Nice massacre in a Friday statement:
“The demented individuals who follow causes which justify acts such as these must be defeated.”
And where will radical Islamic terror strike next?
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.