Red, white and extra blue as tight security marks U.S. July 4th celebrations

People watch Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Independence Day celebrations in New York July 4, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
People watch Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Independence Day celebrations in New York July 4, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

NEW YORK | BY BARBARA GOLDBERG – reuters.com/article

The United States celebrated the July Fourth holiday on Monday with parades, baking contests and picnics draped in red, white and an extra layer of blue, as police ramped up patrols because of concerns about terrorism and gun violence.

Millions of Americans marked independence from Britain with celebrations as boisterous as a music-packed party by country music legend Willie Nelson for 10,000 people at a race track in Austin, Texas, and as staid as colonial-era costumed actors reading the Declaration of Independence at the U.S. National Archives in Washington. [nL8N19M5Q0]

“It’s a good day for reflecting on the positive things about America – the sense of freedom that you can go after and achieve whatever you want,” said Helen Donaldson, 48, the mother of a multi-ethnic family of four adopted teens living in Maplewood, New Jersey.

Donaldson, a white Australian immigrant, cheered with her two New Jersey-born African-American daughters, both 12 and dressed in red, white and blue, as a recording of the Star Spangled Banner played to kick off a children’s relay race. Nearby, in the baking contest tent, 13-year-old Nate Fisher entered his cherry blueberry tart into competition.

“I have high hopes,” he said, flashing a smile.

History was made in the traditional hotdog-eating contest at New York’s Coney Island when long-time champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnut took back the Mustard Yellow International Belt from last year’s upstart winner Matt Stonie. Chestnut set an unofficial new world record by downing 70 hotdogs in 10 minutes – topping his previous record of 69 franks. In the women’s division, Miki Sudo successfully defended her title by eating 38 hotdogs in 10 minutes.

With the holiday taking place days after attacks in Baghdad, Dhaka and Istanbul, the New York Police Department deployed eight new “vapor wake” dogs, trained to sniff out explosives on a moving target in a crowd. 

The department’s presence this holiday was boosted by nearly 2,000 new officers just days after they graduated on Friday from the New York City Police Academy.

“You’re going to see a lot of people in heavy vests, helmets and long guns and they can respond at a moment’s notice to any incident,” NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill told a news conference. “There’s also a lot you won’t see.”

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The war on terrorism is far from over, but hopefully some healing to the families of nearly  3,000 lives lost can begin.  I’m hoping that the families and friends of those we lost on 9/11 feel some sense that justice has been done and that some sort of healing process is beginning.  What has happened also reinforces that the American military forces and those of our allies are the best in the world and we owe them so much. We must never stop extending our gratitude for protecting our way of life, our freedom and for putting their lives on the line to save ours ever single day of their lives.