By Chris Jessen
There’s just something right about celebrating the Fourth of July in Washington.
The Independence Day celebrations back home in Iowa are great, but there’s just something different, something powerful, about being in the nation’s capital on the country’s birthday.
The morning began when I headed down to Constitution Avenue to watch the National Independence Day Parade with three other Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns. We got a good spot right in front of the National Archives.
The parade was great. There were a lot of different groups, from high school marching bands to the DC Roller Girls.
Eventually the heat, which reached 99 degrees according to AccuWeather, began to get to us and we decided to go inside.
There, we became founding fathers and mothers when we signed a copy of the Declaration of Independence with quill pens, even though we were told doing so would be treason against the crown.
After we committed our bit of treason, we wanted to see what the buzz was at a nearby table. Visitors were making beeswax candles, an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. The worker at the table said mine was perfection. Unfortunately, it melted slightly in the heat later in the day.
Then we saw the documents that created our country. First on the list was the Magna Carta. When I was a freshman at the University of South Dakota, I covered a traveling display of historic texts at our school. In the collection was a 1358 copy of the Magna Carta, which I had the privilege of holding.
Then it was on to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This summer will be my fourth time in the District, but this is the first time that I have been able to see these documents. Being able to read the Declaration on Independence Day was a powerful feeling. To me, it was the most patriotic thing I’ve ever done on the Fourth of July.
Hungry and looking for some good American food, we headed to Ben’s Chili Bowl. On my first visit to Ben’s, I had to have the famous half-smoke with chili, which did not disappoint.
Back at my apartment, I took a quick nap before getting ready to head to the U.S. Capitol. The other four interns and I got there in time to set out blankets and watch the Capitol Fourth Concert, which featured performances by Matthew Broderick, John Williams, Josh Turner and others. The show was great, and we got up to dance when “Glee’s” Amber Riley sang “Proud Mary.”
Then the fireworks began.
Though the show wasn’t very long, the fireworks were amazing. The Washington Monument was basked in the beautiful glow of each brilliant explosion. I only wish the show could have lasted longer.
With our Independence Day celebrations at an end, the other interns and I raced over to Union Station and were lucky enough to get on a Metro train immediately.
I have had great Independence Days in the past: Watching fireworks over the lake in Clear Lake, Iowa, camping in Missouri with my girlfriend and her family and grilling out at home and watching the fireworks from our deck. This year was different. I don’t know if I’ve ever done so many fun and patriotic things on the Fourth before, and I’m not sure I ever will again. The only thing that could have topped would have been punching an alien in the face and telling it, “Welcome to Earth.”