By Olivia Barker, USA TODAY
This Fourth of July there will be the usual barbecue and potato salad, fireworks and parades.
But there will also be candlelight vigils, moments of silence and, as John Godbey of Elkview, W.Va., puts it, "a lot of praying and thinking."
This Independence Day is shaping up to be the most extraordinary since the 1976 bicentennial. The Sept. 11 attacks are influencing how communities and families around the USA plan to mark the Fourth, at events both celebratory and solemn, injected with patriotism and wrapped in red, white and blue.
And as cities such as Washington, Boston and Philadelphia strengthen security measures, potential terrorism threats aren't deterring organizers, participants or spectators.
A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll of 1,020 adults conducted last weekend shows that more than a third (35%) of Americans plan to do something in remembrance of Sept. 11 this Independence Day (margin of error, plus or minus 3 percentage points). A strong majority (83%) say they'll display a flag, up from 66% last year. More say they'll gather with family members: 82%, compared with 76% in 2001. Nine percent plan to say a prayer.
A sampling of how Sept. 11 and July 4 are coming together:
Launched in conjunction with New York City and billed as the biggest in America, Macy's annual pyrotechnic extravaganza has been dubbed A Time for Heroes. Sept. 11 nods include a military flyover, light show and, halfway through the half-hour fireworks spectacle, a 30-second pause broken only by the sound of bells chiming over the East River.
"I don't want to tell you it's going to be a more serious show," says executive producer Robin Hall. "But given what's going on, I think the show will have a more serious feel to it. It will be a more emotional show."
The theme of Santa Clarita, Calif.'s 70-year-old parade is America's Heroes. About 3,000 residents will participate, including scores of police officers, firefighters and military personnel. A fire truck from New York will rumble by.
"It's a little bit of different feeling," says parade chairman Leon Worden. "Normally, the theme is more jubilant" Western or Hollywood. "This year, there's kind of a somber note."
The folks behind Ribfest in Naperville, Ill., are introducing a handful of New York firefighters to the 200,000-plus crowd and beaming a pair of spotlights, 6 to 8 feet across, into the sky, to represent the twin towers.
The first half-hour of Madison, Wis.'s Rhythm & Booms fireworks spectacular will be a tribute to local rescue workers who volunteered at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, before 300,000 Midwesterners. "We're hoping for one of the largest standing ovations," says event founder Terry Kelly.
Other commemorations will be more quietly reflective. Bill Good is tucking pictures of Old Glory into his flower beds at home in Blachly, Ore., and hanging the Stars and Stripes in his windows. He's got a light fixture out front, the letters U, S, A stacked on top of each other, aglow in red, white and blue. And he's draping red, white and blue icicle lights from the windows of his garage.
"I guess it's a little bit more" décor than he's put out in the past, says Good, 63, a retired teacher. "But it just seemed like the right thing to do."