Sunday, July 4, 2010

America's Birthday

Magnet # 284: Independence Hall, Philadelphia

Material: Metal

Purchased By: Mom

Well, I've posted about independence days from all over the world on this blog, but now it's finally time to celebrate my own nation's Independence Day. It's now been 234 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed at Philadelphia's Independence Hall by 56 of the bravest and most patriotic men the brand new country had to offer. Many of them suffered for their action, but none ever backed down for taking part in what was perceived by the British as an act of treason. All in all, the homes of 12 signers were burned to the ground and 17 of the men lost all they owned. The 13 children of John Hart of Trenton New Jersey were taken and he never saw them again. And all of them were hunted by British troops eager to punish them for their defiance. It is truly sobering to learn what they suffered through so that all of us can now have such freedom in the United States.

In a very unusual twist of fate, this is also the anniversary of the death of the only two signers of the Declaration of Independence who went on to become Presidents of the United States of America - John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They both died on the same July 4 in 1826, exactly 50 years after the document was signed. Though the pair had butted heads over the years, they had grown close later in life. Jefferson was the first to pass at his home Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia. On his deathbed, he awoke on the evening of the third and asked if it was July 4 yet. When he learned it wasn't, he managed to hold on until the dawn so he could die on the day that had been so important to him. Over 500 miles away, in Quincy, Massachusetts, John Adams was able to watch the local July 4 celebrations from a window in his home. But he must have known the end was coming, for his last words were "Thomas Jefferson survives." It must have been a great source of comfort, believing his friend would be able to continue to guide the country after he was no longer able to. Thankfully, he never knew Jefferson had passed away just hours before him. He was 91; Jefferson was 83.

As those of you who live in the United States know, this is one of the busiest times of the year on the roads and at the airports, as people are traveling to celebrate with their families. And in my case, that's held especially true this year. My family usually comes over here for the 4th of July, but this year, my Mom's sister and her family came for a visit, too. It was their first time seeing Savannah and we had a nice time. We didn't exactly do a lot of patriotic activities, but we went to Bonaventure Cemetery, which is easily the nicest graveyard in town and perhaps one of the nicest in the nation. We visited a few spots there, and one was a section set aside for soldiers. It was decorated with flags for the holiday, and one of my cousins was very interested in the ranks and dates listed on the tombstones. Seeing those graves of fallen heroes was a proper reminder of the many people who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. And last night, we had a really fun time lighting sparklers and waving them all around. Even though my youngest cousin was a little nervous about them, he soon realized just how enjoyable they really are. We even saw one big firework in the distance. I suppose our July 4th celebration has been a mix of remembrance and festivities, which strikes me as appropriate.

I hope that those of you who are here in the United States have participated in the anniversary of the creation of our country in some way today. What a remarkable day this is, having both brought about the signing of the Declaration of Independence and taking away our second and third Presidents. This is a day that needs to be singled out in some way, so if you haven't watched fireworks, lit up sparklers, or just tuned into the festivities airing on television, here's your chance to do so!

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