Fourth of July celebrations include reminders of a tough year


The Statue of Liberty seen through fog before the 125th Anniversary of the Statue of Liberty ceremony on Liberty Island in New York City, Sept. 22, 2011.


Daniel Berehulak

Americans are celebrating the 235th birthday of the United States today with a day off, picnics and fireworks – but reminders of a tough 234th year are everywhere.

While a US national security official told Reuters that the government was not aware of any terrorist threats for July 4, Independence Day festivities in Boston, New York, Washington, DC, and Atlanta are the largest public gatherings since the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, and security has been stepped up accordingly. Police in those cities have been deployed with hand-held chemical detectors, radiation scanners and surveillance cameras.

In Prescott, Ariz., officials added a last-minute event to the town’s 10-hour Independence Day rodeo and festivities – a memorial to 19 elite firefighters who died this week fighting a wildfire. The speeches will take place before the fireworks display, the Associated Press reported.

More from GlobalPost: 19 elite firefighters killed in Arizona wildfires (VIDEO)

And the reopening of the Statue of Liberty today, eight months after Hurricane Sandy damaged the island it stands on, is a reminder of how much damage the October storm caused.

Lady Liberty’s first visitors, however, preferred to focus on the statue as a sign of America’s resilience. “The cleanup was magnificent,” Jim Tranthem, 70, from Homestead, Fla., told the New York Daily News today. “I don’t care if it cost $60 million.”

“It’s my first time here, and I love it,” Peter Bellvel, 60, from Gilbert, Ariz., told the New York Daily News. “Especially being Independence Day, our nation’s birthday.”

[View the story "Americans speak freely on the Fourth" on Storify]