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An estimated 2.5 million people lived in the United States the year the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation.
Now, America’s population is more than 300 million – but that day back in 1776 still holds great meaning for its citizens.
The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, became a federal holiday on June 28, 1870. Communities throughout the nation continue to gather every July 4 to honor and celebrate their independence. Many people will mark today with parades and backyard barbecues and tonight watching colorful fireworks brighten the sky.
Also each Fourth of July, many Americans are filled with patriotic thoughts. A variety of those thoughts were expressed by local community leaders during interviews Wednesday.
• Rep. Jeannette Wallace – “The Fourth of July is a fun day, but it’s also a remembrance and I think sometimes we forget the meaning of the day. But the speeches and fireworks celebrations help to remind us of its importance.”
• LANL Director Michael Anastasio – “The Fourth represents our country’s hard-fought freedom and the freedoms we enjoy as citizens. Of course, it’s also a traditional time for family and friends to spend time together. Independence Day also reminds me of the vital role that Los Alamos National Laboratory plays in maintaining and enhancing our nation’s security, especially at a time when many seek to take unfair advantage of our open society.”
• Bandelier Superintendent Brad Traver – “I think the Fourth of July is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on just what a remarkable nation this is and has been for 200 plus years. Personally for me, it’s an opportunity to reflect on and reaffirm my career choice to serve this country in protection of its heritage, which is a decision I’m glad I made every year when the Fourth comes around because it’s an important heritage to protect for everyone. On a practical level, I think about fireworks and hope there won’t be any fires started because in some of the places I’ve worked, that has been a problem.”
• UNM-LA Executive Director Cedric Page – “It’s a time to reflect on the freedoms that we have and how easily they can be eroded away by laws and presidential decisions ... We need to be constantly aware of just how precarious freedom can be in view of the recent Zimbabwe election and our election in 2000.”
• Fire Chief Douglas MacDonald – “The first thing that comes to mind about the Fourth of July is that it’s the internal reflector and the gut check reminder of how good we’ve got it in the U.S.A. The second thing is the fullness of emotion that I feel when I’m listening to the “Star Spangled Banner” being played down at Overlook Park when I’m going through the crowds ... and the enjoyment of watching the families and friends and all the members of the community enjoying the festivities going on that day with the Kiwanis fireworks display in celebration of Independence Day.”
• County Council Chairman Jim Hall – “The Fourth of July reminds me of two things, one is to celebrate my good fortune to have been born in the United States of America. The second thing reminds me of my duty as a citizen to maintain our traditions of freedom, individual responsibility and a government that represents the interests of all of the people.”
• County Administrator Max Baker – “The Fourth of July is a really special day for me and my family. We try to make it a point to pause from family activities and consider the contributions and sacrifices made by so many for our country, including the Founding Fathers and those who give their lives to protect our freedoms.”
• Police Chief Wayne Torpy – “In particularly these years since the Sept. 11 attacks and the war that’s gone on for so long, I think mostly about the young men and women who’ve served this country so many years. We’re very lucky to live in this country and to have young folks willing to fight for the things the Fourth of July is about and it’s about our freedom.”
• School Board President Steve Girrens – “The thing I always remember is that many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence gave up so much. They were severely set back because of it. Some were killed. Some lost their estates and property. It sends the message - Nothing comes lightly and the things we take for granted came at a significant price.”
• Superintendent of Schools Mary McLeod – “The Fourth of July symbolizes the amazing freedom we have as Americans to pursue our dreams and speak our thoughts and have an enormous number of services not available to other governments such as education.”
• Business leader Denise Lane – “Besides the obvious celebration of our independence, July 4th reminds me of the joys of small town America. Most notably the events that make Los Alamos such a delightful place to live. In addition to the fireworks at Overlook, my favorite event of the day is the YMCA’s Children’s Parade. A large contingent of children, dogs, wagons, bikes, strollers, skateboards, guinea pigs, pet lizards and parents, all sporting every imaginable type of red, white and blue regalia, assemble in the Central Avenue Plaza parking lot. Then off they go in a rag tag parade down Central Avenue as their fans cheer from the sidewalks. They march proudly to the YMCA to stand and salute the flag and acknowledge the special day. Those of us who stand on the sidewalks fight back tears as we remember 20 years ago enjoying the same wonderful tradition with our now grown children. Then you remind yourself why this is such a great place to live!”