What is the meaning of the Fourth of July? It is the day that we celebrate our country’s independence from England that occurred over two hundred years ago. For a lot of people the fourth means a reason to picnic and see fireworks. For most of us here in Colorado, there won’t be fireworks this year. We are in a major drought right now and the land is simply too dry to risk any sparks coming down and igniting dry grass. Here in Colorado Springs, we’re dealing with the costliest fire in the state’s history. The Waldo Canyon fire started just west of Colorado Springs last weekend and ravaged much of the foothills west of town, and some very exclusive neighborhoods in those areas. For a while, people were not allowed in many of the parks around town for fear that more fires would start from folks being careless. For a while, I wondered what people would do if they couldn’t get together to celebrate the birth of our country.
I think this year, here in Colorado, we’re going to be celebrating surviving the fires, coming together to help each other out, and the real heroes that have touched so many lives, the firefighters and other emergency service men and women who have done so much over the past week and a half to save lives and property. Sunday, on the first day that they had highway 24, the main road between Colorado Springs and the area in the mountains to the west, opened again for traffic, we drove through, thankful for our trip home being back to its normal hour as opposed to the two and a half hours it had become. Along the area where the evacuations had occurred, people lined the streets holding signs thanking the firemen for their brave efforts to contain the fire. As the fire trucks rolled past, going the opposite way we traveled, they turned on their lights and sirens for the crowds. Something in this display touched me in a way that, even as a writer, I have trouble putting into words. It reminded me of some small-town celebrations that we see documented for the Fourth of July.
The city of Colorado Springs is asking everyone to please not shoot off fireworks this year, but instead they are wanting to have a flashlight celebration in honor of the firefighters that have fought so valiantly to protect our community. Sometimes we have to change the way we do things, but the meanings stay the same. We are still celebrating the birth of a country. Back then, on that first great celebration folks celebrated their freedom from England. Now across this country that has recently been ravaged by fire, storms, floods, droughts, economic down turns and other things, we celebrate the spirit of what makes us great. To find the true meaning, all we have to do is look in ourselves and open ourselves up to freedom and life.
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