Independence Day in D.C.

Yesterday saw another great celebration on the National Mall in Washington of our nation's declared independence. Two hundred thirty-one years ago, the Continental Congress adopted Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence.

'Jefferson' and 'Franklin' read the Declaration
"Thomas Jefferson" looks on as "Benjamin Franklin" reads the Declaration of
Independence on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
We began the morning at the National Archives, where the original Declaration of Independence is stored, for the annual dramatic reading of the document by men portraying three of the original signers: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Last year, the last couple of paragraphs were read by two men of our armed forces who were wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. One of the men suffered head injuries, and his reading was stilted and slurred, yet he bravely read through the document. It brought tears to many in the crowd assembled on the steps outside the archives and spilling out onto Pennsylvania Avenue.

This year, they brought a veteran of World War II to read the last part of the Declaration, and filmmaker Ken Burns talked about his upcoming World War II documentary, The War, which recounts the war from soldiers who fought it. I heard no mention of any active war going on, or of any of the men and women fighting in it. Iraq already seems like a war we're fighting to forget.

'Jefferson' and 'Franklin' read the Declaration
Rockets red glare light up the boats on the Potomac River during the
fireworks finale.
We watched a little of the Independence Day parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, walked through the exhibits and listened to music at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall, then returned home in the afternoon to watch the fireworks from our balcony.

At around 5 p.m., a lightning storm prompted police to evacuate the open areas of the Mall and the Marine Corps Memorial. Officers asked picnickers and others staking out seats for the concert and fireworks to seek shelter in the various museums and memorials. The storm passed through after about an hour, and the 8 p.m. concert at the Capitol began on time, as did the fireworks an hour later. Last year we watched the fireworks from the Lincoln Memorial. This year, we were able to enjoy the view from our home in Rosslyn.

The fireworks show was great, as usual, but this year I thought it was marred a bit by two orbiting police helicopters, one to the east of the Mall and one to the west. Security was visibly tighter this year, the terror tenor of our times.

And to put another damper on an otherwise perfect evening, three men who put on the fireworks display were hurt and burned, one seriously, when unexploded fireworks went off about 15 minutes after the finale. I was still looking toward the Lincoln Memorial and saw two or three fireworks explode at ground level. May the injured fireworkers recover fully.