Something is special in the air on the Fourth of July -- a kind of energy unique to this day.
It's a mix of patriotism, pomp and nostalgia, of rituals and icons, of treasured memories of family cookouts, of suspense about what summer has in store.
The sulfur smell of sparklers.
The taste of tangy coleslaw.
Lightning bugs in jars.
The screech of bottle rockets in the distance (or maybe over in your neighbor's yard, for which we apologize).
All are bits and pieces of this beautiful day, which when stitched together, form a concoction that can't be replicated.
In other words, it's like America itself.
Thursday, our country celebrates this birthday together, from the Florida panhandle's sandy beaches to the streets of Manhattan, from Lake Decatur to Lake Tahoe, from the desert to the sea.
Sure, many of us get the day off. But as with Memorial Day and Labor Day, this holiday should be about reflecting on our values and giving thanks as Americans.
Thanking the service members overseas and those who came before them. Thanking the men and women of law enforcement and first-responders. Thanking the Americans who fought before us for equality and understanding.
We thank the courageous heroes who broke away from the British crown and wrote those words, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..."
We set aside this day to remember.
Happy birthday, America.
We salute you.