WASHINGTON — The first Fourth of July celebrations after the Sept. 11 attacks carried with it a slight undertone of fear and a solemn revival of patriotism, in addition to the large number of entertaining activities going on.
While family festivities such as the National Independence Day Parade, Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the reading of the Declaration of Independence at Union Station livened Washington early Thursday, a tinge of uncertainty was in the back of many residents’ minds as they prepared to celebrate their nation’s birthday while they inwardly worried about a potential terrorist attack.
Michelle Reaves, a security officer at the Common Wealth Building located near the White House, said Wednesday that she was not planning on attending the city’s celebrations, not out of the fear of terrorism, but because it would be “too hectic, too many people.”
“There have been a lot of rumors and stuff, but its just rumors. It’s nothing definite. A lot of other cities have been targeted as well,” she said. But she added that she was aware the city may be more open to threats. “I guess maybe because Bush is here, that’s why it’s so much of a target,” she said.
Carmen Whonder, a philanthropist working in Virginia near the Washington border, echoed Reaves’ comments of uncertainty and also acknowledged that there is a possibility of an attack.
“I think everyone’s thinking about it but may not be acknowledging it, or consciously considering it as part of their planning process,” she said.
Whonder expressed appreciation for the stringent security efforts, but also feared that the efforts would interfere in the festivities. “(Security efforts) are fine, it’s their job. If they don’t do it and something does happen, then people are going to complain. It’s better to be safe than sorry,” she said. “However, (security) is fine as long as it’s done in a way that people still enjoy themselves. I think also that people can go a little over board.”
Raka Huq, a Princeton senior interning in Washington, said she would normally have loved to partake in the festivities, especially because in the nation’s capital, but chose not to because of potential security concerns.
“Under normal circumstances, I would not have passed this opportunity up,” she said. “Although I didn’t really think, deep in my heart, that anything would happen, I decided to stay on the safe side and just watch the fireworks on TV.”
In his July 4. speech in Ripley, W.Va., President Bush told Americans that they should not be afraid of terrorism and that they should take pride in their country.
“In this 226th year of our independence, we have seen that American patriotism is still a living faith. We love our country; only more when she’s threatened,” President Bush said.
President Bush spent much of his speech thanking those who have fought, or are fighting, for the country’s independence.
“Americans know that our country did not come about by chance. Our nation was first designed as a colony, serving an empire and answering to a king. The founders had other things in mind. In the summer of 1776, they declared that these colonies are and, of right, ought to be free and independent states,” President Bush said.
“With a great army massed against the Americans, these were not idle words. ‘Stepping forward to sign the Declaration,’ said Dr. Benjamin Rush, ‘was like signing your own death warrant.’ Yet he and 55 others put their name on the document, pledging to the cause their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.”