(Warning: this post is definitely on the sentimental - my children would say 'corny' - side. It is possible that I have been just the tiniest bit homesick this week...)
The 4th of July (or Independence Day, for my non-US readers) was celebrated on Saturday, July 2nd here in Seoul at the Yongsan Army Garrison. While this would be our first year ever not having an actual backyard or a grill for the time-honored 4th of July cookout, we planned to take advantage of some of the festivities on post, concluding with the traditional viewing of fireworks.
We had met another family for dinner and decided afterward to avoid the heat, bugs, and humidity of the Seoul evening and head to our apartment (you gotta love fellow expats, who graciously overlook your camp chair seating and being served gin and tonics in plastic Solo cups...) to watch the fireworks, since our living room had a clear view of the post. While we were still walking through the grounds of our apartment complex, though, the first round of fireworks went off, illuminating the Seoul skyline. As we stood there on the path, undecided as to whether we should stay there or head upstairs to watch from our apartment, a steady stream of people began to exit the buildings, gathering to watch the brilliant display lighting up the night sky (thanks to Son #1 for capturing this image.)
There was something about that scene that hit me, as I saw all those people pouring out of their buildings to watch the fireworks, celebrating a quintessentially American holiday right there next to our high-rise in the middle of Seoul. We stood there among Koreans, Americans, and dozens of other people from who knows how many other countries, all pausing on a hot summer night as those fireworks joyously commemorated the declaration that has shaped and molded our country for over 200 years. Make no mistake: I'm not closing my eyes to the many challenges we Americans face at home and across the world, or to the fact that we fall short of our ideals much more often than not. But for those few moments, I stood there with people of all ages, races, nationalities, and beliefs, faces turned skyward to enjoy the spectacle, and I joined with that crowd in a celebration of the best of what our country stands for, the ideals that we seek to live by, and the freedoms we enjoy. And for those few moments, I was home again.
(Composed by Francis Scott Key, "In Defense of Fort McHenry" in September 1814. Congress proclaimed it the U.S. National Anthem in 1931)
|Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,|
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?