Tags Posts tagged with "Independence Day"

Independence Day

Port Jefferson Village was splashed red, white and blue for its annual 4th of July Parade, hosted by the Port Jefferson Fire Department. Marchers participated from neighboring fire departments and local businesses, as well as elected officials and many other community groups. Thousands gathered on Main Street to celebrate the Independence Day pomp and circumstance.

First of all, we’re going to need a big cake. No, I know you think most cakes are big and that most people’s eyes are bigger than their stomachs, but this one is going to have to be huge.

You see, we’re about to celebrate an important birthday. Next week, it’s the 242nd birthday of the country, so we’ll need a place to put all the candles.

So, what do we get for the country that has everything?

Well, for starters, it depends on what you imagine represents the country. Is it the Statue of Liberty? The bald eagle? A baseball game? Mount Rushmore? The Grand Canyon?

Seriously, this is one huge country and we haven’t even discussed the last two states to join the union.

Alaska is a gem, with vistas stretching as far as the eye can see, as shimmering spawning salmon make streams and rivers glow orange, while bears nibble here and there as cars and buses pass them along the sides of the highways.

Hawaii reminded everyone this year that it’s a volcanic archipelago. It’s a magnificent and lush combination of majestic mountains, bamboo forests and striking cliffs.

So, what would this great country of ours want for its birthday?

Well, maybe it would want us, even for a day, to all get along. We are all Americans, we have all heard the
stories about the forefathers who
fought for this country, who defied the British, and who wanted what was best for them and, all these years later, us.

Maybe it would want us to tidy up. After all, who doesn’t want to look good on their birthday, right? We could clean up our yards, clean up our neighbor’s yard, remove trash from the area around the school, a place so many enthusiastic children recently abandoned for the start of the summer.

Maybe we should take a moment to think about how we are helping ourselves, or others, reach the American Dream. We all want life to be better, but maybe we can encourage others to strive for, and reach, a dream that anyone from anywhere could reach greatness. We are not like Europeans of past centuries, who limited
opportunities for success by class, gender or ancestry.

The home of the free and the land of the brave is all about allowing anyone from any walk of life to reach their potential and, more importantly, to decide their potential.

America is about celebrating youth. We are a young country, filled with hope for the future, unbridled
optimism and joy.

Regardless of what politicians in Washington say, we are also a country that likes to laugh, even at ourselves. We have a great sense of humor. Need a laugh? Watch “Bridesmaids” or “Groundhog Day” — or if in the mood for something older, “Animal House.”

We pull apart and then we come together. We speak with different accents, depending on where we come from or what part of the world our ancestors originally inhabited.

When we come together, we are unstoppable, finding our best selves from the roles we play in companies, on teams, or in close-knit families that stand ready, willing and able to support each other through any challenge.

Sure, we can hang the flag, eat a hot dog, have a barbecue and sing a few American songs to celebrate our country. But, hey, maybe we can also look for the best in each other and in ourselves as we again give hope to the notion that a rising tide of optimism, of cooperation, of compassion lifts all boats.

Port Jefferson’s annual July 4th parade sponsored by the Port Jefferson Fire Department marched down Main Street in the village Tuesday morning. Marchers from nearby fire departments, the Suffolk County Police Department, and numerous other groups including the Port Jefferson Ferry, local boys and girls scout troops, and many others took part in the festivities.

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Servicemen and women salute the American Flag in Northport on Memorial Day. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Do you ever stop and think what the Fourth of July is really all about?

While we were enjoying our BBQs, lounging at the beach, sipping on a drink or lighting fireworks this Independence Day, we realized the meaning of this holiday, like many others, can be forgotten when we’re busy trying to have a good time.

Our nation’s founders fought for our freedom.

Following the American Revolution, the 13 American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, and with that, came a string of unalienable rights that we now mark with patriotic displays on July 4, to symbolize our pride and celebration of this freedom.

Reflecting on what it means, and why we’re honored to live in this country, several things came to mind.

Freedom of speech is something that Americans can take for granted. The ability to express opinions, either as an individual or as part of the media, is essential to the backbone of our country.

Two in our editorial department have backgrounds that extend beyond our borders.

One, a first-generation American, was raised with a particular appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy. Both her parents emigrated from Eastern Europe as children in the 1920s and were raised in New York. They faced challenges including learning a new language and adapting to American ways, but in America there was no tsar, conscripting male heads of households or, in retrospect, no dictator on the rise who would eventually annihilate most of the Jews left behind in Eastern Europe. The American Dream became a reality for her parents.

Another editorial staffer’s father moved to this country from Colombia when he was in his 20s. Hearing about his background, she loves that he was able to prosper in this country — not just survive — but pursue his dream job of teaching and find a career where he is still excited to go to work and see his students 30 years later. As the daughter of an immigrant, she’s proud to be a part of the country that welcomed her dad and let him follow his dream.

While we look back on what we were founded on, and why this country is unique in the freedoms it gives us, we can also look ahead, to what we want it to be. We can be thankful for what we have, and for what America stands for, but also strive to continue to make this country an even better place than it was when we became a new nation on Independence Day.

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After every July Fourth we hear about the sickening tally of those injured or maimed by illegal firecrackers and explosives that were fired off in the name of fun. We routinely say, “How idiotic. Why don’t they just leave the fireworks to the professionals and go watch the show someplace?” There are always places to see the artful displays, hear the raucous explosions and cheer together the red, white and blue. If all else fails, there is the television or the computer screen. Do we have to injure ourselves to fully honor the actions of the colonists almost two-and-one-half centuries ago?

This subject is of more than casual interest to my family. When my dad was growing up on an upstate New York farm, one of nine children, a neighbor brought the family some explosive caps with which to properly celebrate Independence Day. The children gathered around a large boulder and cheered with each explosion, as my father’s favorite brother smashed the caps in turn with a rock he held in his hand. But one refused to go off. To make sure he was hitting the cap in exactly the right spot, he bent his head close to the obdurate explosive and carefully aimed his blow. This time it did explode and blew out his right eye. Needless to say, that was the end of that in my household.

The trail of these stupid tragedies continues.

When we first arrived here, on the beautiful North Shore of Suffolk from our Texas air force base, at the end of June, 47 years ago, my husband, who was an ophthalmologist, applied for hospital privileges at St. Charles in Port Jefferson. He was admitted to the ranks with the news that his first “on call” day would be on July 4. His first patient, waiting for him in the emergency room, was a teenage boy whose eye had been destroyed by an Independence Day explosive. He tended to the boy, of course, but never got over the horror of that sight and was sickened by the memory every year. It had been more traumatic for him than the many cases he had treated during the Vietnam War.

With these illegal explosives, brought in gleefully from distant states, we are to this day making war on ourselves. There is the story of the young visitor from Virginia in New York City, who was romping over the rocks in Central Park with his two buddies, when he stepped on a plastic bag of explosives that went off and destroyed his foot. There are seemingly unending stories of hands blown off, faces disfigured, house fires started, bystanders wounded and all manner of ugly consequences from fireworks across America. Some 230 wound up in emergency rooms at the latest count.

When John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, on July 4, 1776, envisioning a dazzling annual celebration of independence from Britain, he surely didn’t consider such carnage as part of the party. Nor did he imagine the single horror that brought about what was probably the first city ordinance in America banning the possession or sale of fireworks within the city limits.

It happened in Cleveland in 1908. A clerk in S.S. Kresge’s department store was showing a 4-year-old boy and his mother a “harmless” sparkler with which to celebrate the holiday when a spark flew into the nearby display of skyrockets, torpedoes and candles. The store was almost immediately engulfed in flames. Seven people died, including the little boy, and dozens more were injured as the store burned. The tragedy prompted the city council to act, and many more cities and states have outlawed explosives over the last century.

But there are still states where the sale of explosives is legal, and the present concern is that a growing movement seems underway to relax some of the current legal restrictions. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates the sale of fireworks, reported that in addition to the many maimings from explosives 11 people died in 2014 alone. Why?

Residents from all over Long Island flocked to parades and firework celebrations happening in from Brookhaven to Huntington, in honor of Independence Day.

North Shore Jewish Center file photo

By Rabbi Aaron Benson

One of the truly special aspects of Jewish life is the interconnectedness of the Jewish world. This trait comes to the fore on a holiday like Yom Ha-Atzma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day, which was celebrated on the Jewish calendar this year on May 12. Jews from around the world join together in remembering those who have died in bringing into being and defending Israel, praying for peace and security in Israel and the Middle East and celebrating the true miracle that is not just the return of the Jews to their historic homeland but also all the many accomplishments of Israel in the 68 years since it was founded.

Rabbi Michael Schudrich has Long Island roots and visited from Poland to share his experiences at the North Shore Jewish Center. Photo from Rabbi Aaron Benson
Rabbi Michael Schudrich has Long Island roots and visited from Poland to share his experiences at the North Shore Jewish Center. Photo from Rabbi Aaron Benson

The North Shore Jewish Center celebrated the special place Israel has for our community by joining the leader of another Jewish community, that of Poland, whose chief rabbi, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, was visiting Long Island last week. A native of Patchogue, Rabbi Schudrich graduated from Stony Brook University, where he was being honored during his visit. The chief rabbi has a unique attachment to NSJC, as he was a religious school teacher at our synagogue back when he was a student.

He shared with us about the situation of the Jewish community in Poland. It certainly has its challenges. The Jewish community was nearly destroyed during the Holocaust, losing 90 percent of its numbers. Communism brought about more years of persecution. But since the 1990s, there have been some signs of growth and stability. Young Polish Jews today, for example, travel to Israel as part of the Birthright program, something young American Jews do, too. Rabbi Schudrich explained how a strong connection to Israel for his community is one of the achievements of Poland’s Jews.

Learning about the rebirth of Jewish life in Poland was a hopeful story for our congregants to hear. And to learn that our co-religionists in Poland feel a deep commitment to Israel just as we do, too (our synagogue is planning a trip to Israel for this fall), brought home a deeper meaning to the holiday.

For it reminded us that no matter where Jews may live all around the world, a love for Israel inspires us all. That made our Yom Ha-Atzma’ut particularly memorable this year.

The author is the rabbi at the North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station.

Photos by Bob Savage

Port Jefferson was decked out in red, white and blue on Saturday for the village’s annual July 4th parade.

Residents from Connecticut to Middle Island came out to enjoy the festivities and see the fire trucks, listen to the bagpipes and salute local veterans.

The barracks of the 124th Illinois Infantry in Vicksburg, Miss. Photo in the public domain

By Rich Acritelli

Independence Day commemorates the birth of our nation as well as a day when the Union Army notched a huge victory during the Civil War. It was a July 4 more than 150 years ago that saw some of the most serious fighting ever to take place on U.S. soil.

President Abraham Lincoln wanted desperately to end the Civil War and preserve the Union. By mid-1863, the only way to accomplish that goal was to destroy the southern will to fight. Lincoln’s most important leader was Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who in 1861 was a shop clerk in his family’s store in Illinois. Nobody, including Grant, could have foreseen his quick rise from obscurity to one of the best fighting figures the nation ever produced.

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant poses in Virginia in 1864. Photo in the public domain
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant poses in Virginia in 1864. Photo in the public domain

During the war, Lincoln grew increasingly bitter toward the officers tasked with attacking the South. He detested Gen. George B. McClellan and later fired him for his unwillingness to crush the rebellion in Northern Virginia. For two years, the Army of the Potomac became a revolving door for other officers who failed to defeat Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Lincoln had a limited military background, serving as a captain during the Black Hawk War between the U.S. and Native Americans three decades earlier, but took his job as commander-in-chief seriously. One of his most important decisions was keeping Grant as the head of the Army of the Tennessee after the 1862 Battle of Shiloh and in the face of rumors that Grant was an alcoholic and unable to carry out his duties.

Grant’s rise to commanding general began during the Battle of Vicksburg.

Vicksburg was known as the “Gibraltar of the Confederacy” and the “citadel” on the Mississippi River. Early in the Civil War, Grant understood taking that location would divide the Confederacy, open the river to Union naval and commerce shipping and prevent resources from reaching Lee in Northern Virginia. Grant was determined to destroy it.

In April 1863, he saw he would only gain a victory by moving his army south and attacking Vicksburg on the same side of the Mississippi held by the enemy. This was a risky decision — one that could win or lose the war in the West. The campaign involved Grant cutting off his own supply and communication lines, with he and his men living off the land using the lessons he learned while fighting in the Mexican-American War. If he and his fellow soldiers could survive in the deserts and heat of Mexico, the Civil War fighters could do the same with the hearty agriculture, cattle and poultry resources in Mississippi.

On April 16, with his wife and youngest son Frederick next to him, Grant ordered a naval flotilla of gunboats and barges to make the perilous journey south. The Confederacy opened up its vast armaments but failed to destroy the ships, and Grant turned his gamble into a string of victories that led to the demise of Vicksburg.

Through July 4, Lincoln watched in amazement as the general decisively drove against the enemy. When one politician suggested the operation was a failure and that Grant was again drinking too much, Lincoln retorted that Grant was engaged in some of the most serious and successful fighting the world had ever known.

It was a cunning campaign to operate within the Confederacy. Southern Gens. Joseph E. Johnston and John C. Pemberton both commanded larger forces but under the attack of Grant’s Union Army were unable to combine their forces in battle. In Washington, D.C., Lincoln watched Grant take Jackson, Miss., the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, thereby cutting off the supply, communication and transportation links that supported Vicksburg.

In late May 1863, Grant began a 48-day siege that trapped Pemberton, a native of Pennsylvania, and his forces on the Mississippi River. By July 4, Pemberton’s men were starving and had lost their morale; they surrendered. On our nation’s birthday, Grant took 31,000 Confederate soldiers as prisoners of war, and seized 172 cannons and 60,000 rifles.

Church bells rang out in northern cities to celebrate the Army of the Tennessee’s efforts to finally take Vicksburg in one of the most vital campaigns of the war, on the road to reuniting America.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College. He was a staff sergeant in the New York Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach.

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Village ready to kick off parade and fireworks on July 4

Antonio Febles, 3, and sister Sofia Febles, 7, from Port Jefferson Station get into the spirit despite the rain at the Port Jefferson Fire Department’s July 4 parade last year. Photo by Bob Savage

Port Jefferson is going to be a sea of red, white and blue on Saturday, July 4.

To kick off the day, the Port Jefferson Fire Department will hold its annual Independence Day parade, rain or shine.

The event will start at 10 a.m., with participants marching down Main Street from the Infant Jesus Church at Myrtle Avenue to the harbor, turning left on West Broadway toward Barnum Avenue, and then finishing at the firehouse on Maple Place.

According to the PJFD, roads along the parade route and participant lineup areas will be closed at 8:15 a.m. that day, including Main Street going as far south as North Country Road; Reeves Road; and High Street between Main and Stony Hill Road. Detour signs will direct drivers to the ferry and downtown area.

Later in the day, weather permitting, Port Jefferson Village will continue its annual tradition of setting off fireworks between its East and West beaches in a salute to the nation’s freedom and its Founding Fathers.

The free fireworks show will kick off at 9 p.m.

A resident parking sticker is required to park at the village beaches.

The fireworks are also visible from the neighboring Cedar Beach on Mount Sinai Harbor.

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