John Adams would have been proud. The 4th of July celebration here in Chattanooga was everything he envisioned so long ago. But it was more than that to me. It was precisely the experience I needed to remind me that the “real” America is still alive and well. I saw it for myself that night.
We had the ideal observation spot on the walking bridge above the river. Beneath us spread a huge expanse of grass which had already begun to fill up. On the far end of the park the stage was set for the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra to play later in the evening. It was a picture perfect afternoon, blue skies with a cool breeze, a rare treat in July here in the South!
But I wasn’t at all prepared for the emotional impact it would have on me as thousands gathered in this beautiful spot by the river. I’m sure there must have been some sort of security, but I didn’t see it. No one searched my bag or our picnic basket. The entire area was open – freedom was in the air. How very American!
As I looked across the sea of people having picnics, throwing Frisbees, laughing, dancing, feeling free and happy, I was moved by a raw sense of patriotism. This is it, I thought. This is why George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and countless others who joined America’s Armed Forces over the past 240 years risked it all: so we could be free. And here, in what is known as the “deep South,” people of every age, shape and color were together, peacefully enjoying life, because we choose to and we’re free to make that choice.
I couldn’t help but notice the ease with which everyone moved and savored the evening. Everybody was so relaxed, they obviously felt safe. It suddenly occurred to me how much we had recovered from the fear we went through after 9/11 and I was extremely thankful for that. I wondered how many towns and cities all across the United States were celebrating with parades and bands and fireworks at that exact moment. Honoring the grand IDEA of America.
This event was actually on July 3rd and, coincidentally, it was on July 3, 1776 that John Adams wrote one of his famous letters to his wife Abigail and said of American independence:
“It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
Well, I’m here to say that Chattanooga did it’s part to continue this magnificent tradition. The symphony moved us to tears with a medley of patriotic songs. Then the fireworks started and a thrilling spectacle rained down on us. It was happening so fast I didn’t want to blink, afraid I might miss another burst of excitement falling from the sky. John Adams’ “Illuminations” were definitely on display.
Yes, there was a special magic in the air that night and for anyone who wanted to feel it, it was certainly there for the taking. We are still a free people in the midst of this grand experiment called America, and it was wonderful to take a few hours off to be reminded of who we really are.
After a few days of reflection I just want to say thank you to the city of Chattanooga for all that you do to keep the spirit of America alive. And God bless America, my home sweet home!
Producer of the touring production “Letters From The Front”
Author, “Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant” ~ http://www.mutinousbabyboomer.com/