My fab Philly Fourth

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 19, 2003

Independence Day 1984 is vivid in my memory.

I spent it in that grand old American city, Philadelphia.

I had traveled with my sister Sara to an American Council for the Blind Convention that summer (in those days, she was a rehabilitation counselor for the deaf and blind in Huntsville and I was an instructor at the Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega).

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As luck would have it, we visited the ‘Cradle of Liberty’ during Independence Day week.

It made our visits to such historic spots as Betsy Ross’ house, Constitution Hall, Valley Forge and the church where George and Martha Washington once worshipped, all the more memorable.

For me, history truly comes to life when I can walk in the footsteps of those who came before me—to trod the same cobblestones our first president once traversed, to reach out and touch the crack in the great Liberty Bell.

When I stood in the very hall where, in 1776, John Hancock signed his name with such a grand flourish &uot;even King George would be able to read it without his spectacles&uot;, I experienced a rush of pride and patriotism.

Walking through the green fields of Valley Forge on that summer’s day, I recalled old history lessons of ragged, hungry soldiers, the soles of their boots worn through, huddled together on a fiercely cold winter’s night.

They were the first, but far from the last, American patriots. Visiting Philadelphia and Valley Forge reinforced that truth for me.

By no means were all the moments in Philadelphia solemn for us.

On Independence Day, we got a kick out of watching part of the city’s big parade from our 8th floor hotel room downtown. That evening, Sara and I experienced the biggest, best fireworks show we’d ever seen.

It seemed as if the entire city turned out to celebrate in the park that night.

That fabulous 60s group, the Fifth Dimension, was on hand to serenade the crowd with tunes like ‘Up, Up and Away’ and ‘Aquarius.’

Pro basketball legend Julius Irving arrived to screaming kids shouting &uot;Dr. J, Dr. J!&uot;

Talented ‘Jack of all trades’, George Plimpton, served as a distinguished narrator for the whole red, white and blue spectacle.

As Neil Diamond’s stirring ‘Coming to America’ boomed through the air and the fireworks soared and danced across the black velvet canvas of that night sky, we all sat back, cheering and clapping like excited children.

It was a glorious night to be an American.

Afterwards, there were so many of us in the streets, we literally stopped traffic.

Sara and I were able to walk the few blocks back to the hotel quite easily, still exhilarated by our fabulous Philly Fourth.

Angie Long is a columnist and Lifestyles writer for the Greenville Advocate.

You may contact her via e-mail at or leave a recorded message at 382-5145.