Thursday marks the Fourth of July – the birth of America’s independence.

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, marking America’s official separation from Great Britain.

Our ancestors saw the need to “dissolve the political bands” that connected them with another. They drew boundaries – that “all men are created equal,” that they are “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” They laid out their grievances with the king of Great Britain and endeavored to set the country on what they saw as the right course.

It wasn’t until nearly 100 years later, in 1870, that Congress designated the Fourth of July a federal holiday.

Today – 243 years since the signing – we continue to honor that independence. The Fourth of July is celebrated with fireworks and barbecues. Families and friends gather to celebrate the red, white and blue. They share stories and toast under bursts of exploding colors.

It’s a day that we come together, regardless of political leanings, religion, age, race or geography. It’s a day to set aside our differences and come together in appreciation. We can be thankful for our freedoms and for the independence that our forefathers fought for and ultimately realized. We can send a heartfelt thank you to those who continue that fight today. And we can make our forefathers proud.

Take time on Thursday to celebrate America’s birthday, but don’t forget to do so sensibly.

Even though it’s been a wet spring, there’s always the chance of fire. Take in your surroundings and be cognizant that fireworks can travel. There’s no need to light up the entire neighborhood.

Fireworks are prohibited within Buffalo city limits, on all Bureau of Land Management lands and are also illegal in the national forest 365 days a year. Those who break the laws are subject to fines. Your neighbors may not appreciate loud music, and many animals, particularly dogs, are sensitive to fireworks.

On Thursday, drinks will flow and laughter will be plentiful. Be safe and be sure to have a designated driver or boater.

Remember that with freedom comes responsibility. John Adams envisioned a future America with opportunities and liberty, but he knew that it would take hard work and foresight.

“Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory,” he said. “I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph.”

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