America Celebrates Independence Day

Posted July 4th, 2012 at 6:05 am (UTC-5)
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From the far reaches of Alaska to the Gulf coast, Americans on Wednesday are celebrating the 236th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the formal announcement of America's end as a British colony.

Tens of millions of small-town Americans and city dwellers alike will line parade routes, watch fireworks, attend picnics, concerts and family gatherings. In Washington, hundreds of thousands of spectators will pack the National Mall for a nationally televised concert and a massive display of fireworks.

U.S. President Barack Obama will host the White House's fourth annual salute to the military, with a barbecue, games and a concert by the presidential Marine Band. Additionally, Mr. Obama's daughter Malia turns 14 on Wednesday, but it is not known whether she will celebrate at these festivities.

Fireworks also will light the night skies over hallowed battlefields from the War of 1812 and America's 19th century Civil War. Similar festivities are slated for Philadelphia — the nation's first capital — Annapolis, Maryland, and New York City.

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson in June 1776, the Declaration of Independence is America's most cherished symbol of freedom. The Continental Congress formally approved the document weeks later on July 4.

The recent natural disasters across much of the United States has left many Americans in a less than celebratory mood. More than one million people are still without power after a violent storm known as a derecho struck the midwestern and eastern U.S. last Friday, killing at least 23 people. Utility crews are scrambling across the region to restore power and give residents a relief from temperatures that have soared above 40 degrees (Celsius).

Mr. Obama has declared West Virginia and Ohio as federal disaster areas.

Residents in many parts of the western U.S. are still trying to cope with a series of massive wildfires that has destroyed hundreds of homes and forced tens of thousands of residents to flee.

The disasters have forced many local governments to cancel fireworks displays, either because of efforts to restore power on the East Coast or the threat of more fires in the dry western U.S.