Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Oh, say, can you see...


(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?

6 comments:

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

I'm getting a bit choked-up with you and I'm not even American! What a great start to your Seoul experience, though!

MsCaroline said...

*sigh of relief*..I was worried my non-American readers would be rolling their eyes at this one! I plead a combination of margaritas and exhaustion (due to sleeping on air mattresses)that caused me to wax so sentimental, but you're right: it was a lovely way to start our time here!

Karen said...

Waaaah!! As always, beautifully written! You completely expressed my own feelings about an imperfect USA and the ideals that we stand for but so often fail to live up to. We are all only human. Great 3rd of July here, the 4th was a bit anticlimactic, much to my dismay. Put it this way, you saw more of a better display in Seoul than we did here in our part of the USA...stayed home again this year!
Have a good week...I'm
praying the shipment across the high seas!
Karen

MsCaroline said...

You're right, Karen, it is hard sometimes when we see so much that needs changing...sorry you missed out on fireworks, ironic because I'm usually not a fan of the crowds/bugs/sweat/traffic. Keep praying...we are all counting down!!!

Marion said...

Thanks for the post and the picture of the fireworks. It was all we got on our end. Nothing here due to burn bans. We missed the only ones we might have seen due to the fact that they were on July SECOND. We (wrongly) figured the town might shoot some off over the water that remains in the lake on the actual FOURTH of July (you know, hence the name, and all that), but we were mistaken. you capture so well all that I begin or hope to think about the holiday. Thanks again for keeping us part of your experience with your blog.

MsCaroline said...

Marion- I am so sorry about: a) the non-lake and b) the fireworks on the non-fourth. I'm surprised that the towns were even able to light them due to the drought; I can understand the fireworks being on the 2nd here, where the 4th is not a national holiday, but I've never heard of them re-scheduling to a different day in the good ol' US of A...what are we coming to?