NEW YORK (AP) — From solemn to spectacular, the nation marked its independence with the reopening of the Statue of Liberty for the first time since Superstorm Sandy, extravagant fireworks that included a 19-burst salute to Arizona's fallen firefighters and a musical tribute in Washington to those affected by the Boston Marathon bombing.
"I always love July Fourth and I'm very happy to be in this country, I know I'm blessed," said 15-year-old Yoana Lorenzo, who was among the millions who watched the New York City's over-the-top Fourth of July Fireworks show Thursday night. "To see all these people come together and celebrate, it's pretty great."
Four barges carrying 40,000 shells on the Hudson River unleashed a barrage of brilliant reds, whites and blues — some in shapes and smiley faces — as spectators marveled at the famed New York fireworks display, snapping videos and pictures on their cellphones.
Earlier Thursday, hundreds lined up to be among the first to board boats destined for Lady Liberty, which opened for the first time since it was shuttered by Sandy. Among them was New Yorker Heather Leykam, whose mother's home was destroyed during the storm.
"This, to us, Liberty Island, is really about a rebirth," said Leykam, who was with her family. "It is a sense of renewal for the city and the country. We wouldn't have missed it for the world."
In Prescott, Ariz., celebrations were more subdued.
A fire chief read the names of the 19 firefighters killed last weekend battling a wildfire, while 19 single fireworks burst overhead.
"Less than 100 hours ago, the city of Prescott, the state of Arizona and the nation lost 19 of the best, the bravest firefighters ever dispatched into the forest," fire department division chief Don Devendorf said.