I’ll bet he was nervous, standing before the huddled masses on that Monday, 243 years ago. It was July 8, 1776. The people stared at him with wide-eyed curiosity and perhaps some fear, waiting to hear what the Second Continental Congress decided.

Perhaps his opening went something like this: “Can I have your attention please? By order of the Second Continental Congress, I am hereby directed to read to the citizenry, the Declaration of Independence on this Monday, July 8th, 1776. I am Colonel John Nixon from the Philadelphia Committee of Safety…”

Col. Nixon proceeded to read the entire Declaration of Independence, four days after it was completed. While Nixon’s audience stood and listened from the State House Yard (now called Independence Square) at Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall), this declaration was not a surprise. Our anger with British rule smoldered for several years and perhaps the Battles of Lexington and Concord a year earlier, convinced even the strongest loyalists to the crown, it was time to rebel against King George III.

After the colonel completed his reading, bells in Philadelphia rang throughout the day and into the evening, led by the sound of the Liberty Bell. Our real freedom was not truly celebrated though, until September 3, 1783, when the Peace of Paris treaty was signed, ending the Revolutionary War.

The most prolific writers in our country’s history cannot entirely capture the horrors of war. Citing statistics begins to paint a picture of the destruction and bloodshed associated with any war. Record-keeping over 200 years ago was as accurate as resources allowed, and while historians agree officially on 25,000 American soldier deaths, most historians are convinced that number is deficient in calculating soldier deaths. And there’s no accurate means to determine the number of civilian deaths in the Revolutionary War.

The decision to declare the United States free of British rule took extraordinary courage from our early leaders and civilians. They predicted the King would send his Royal Navy and Redcoats to forget the foolishness of the Declaration of Independence. Well, our ancestors did not change their minds and the pockets of resistance, including various militia groups, along with the Continental army, fought to the death to win our independence.

We hope everyone enjoys our department’s annual Freedom Fest on the Fourth of July with free open swim at the Aquatic Center followed by the events and music at Heritage Park into the evening. When the fireworks show starts and colorful bursts fill the evening sky, give silent thanks to those brave patriots who had the wisdom to declare our independence and then the courage to fight for it.

• • •

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) encourages departments nationwide to specify July as Parks and Recreation Month. Mayor Tara Walter did just that recently when she read a proclamation declaring July as Parks and Recreation month in Florence. The intent is to celebrate and promote the variety of programs and events offered to communities by parks and recreation departments.

Our department includes library services, parks maintenance, senior center, recreation programming and administration. We are proud of what we do for Florence citizens and visitors and will continue to provide the best special events, programs, classes, parks and facilities.

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