“We are one country,” said Allan Lundsford, 44, an engineer who lives in Bowie. He camped out on the Mall on Thursday afternoon ahead of the concert and fireworks. “We can come together on this day and just celebrate that fact.”
The day seemed far calmer than last year, when the region was still recovering from the “derecho” storm, which left many without power. For days leading up to the holiday, dreary skies and frequent rain dominated the weather. But Thursday was hot and sunny, attracting massive crowds to events across the region.
Thousands gathered along Constitution Avenue in the District for the Independence Day Parade. There were couples young and old, interns, families from near and far. A visitor from Scotland, Jennie Walker, said she found the festivities pleasantly “cheesy.”
“This is America’s Main Street,” said Karen Engstrom, 50, who biked into the city with her husband from their home in Kensington.
Up and down the parade route, loud music and colorful floats sometimes provoked unexpected emotions.
“No matter what our country is going through, we are still one of the best countries in the world,” said James Bell, a D.C. native and former Army specialist.
Aaron Peters, a sophomore at Purdue University, recalled the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15 that killed three people and injured more than 260. He said he was glad that, in spite of the attack, “people don’t back down and stay home.”
“You think about what happened in Boston, and you come here and see Americans come together — so fearless, so amazing,” said Peters, 19, a Web page design intern. “We are lucky to live in America.”
Pablo Antonio Pacheco reflected on his journey from El Salvador, fleeing a bloody civil war, to the District, where he attended Cardozo High School in the mid-1990s. Pacheco and his family recently moved to North Carolina, but they returned for the holiday.
“There’s nothing like this,” Pacheco said. “You see everybody coming together today, under one flag. Our flag.”
Protests amid parades
The day was also marked with the American pastimes of protesting, campaigning and advocating.
Moms Demand Action, a group that opposes gun violence, organized marches at parades across the country, including one in Great Falls. The group is pushing for background checks for all weapon purchases, banning military-style assault weapons and making gun trafficking a federal crime.