Independence Day in the pandemic

BOSTON — As Independence Day celebrations go, Boston is certainly used to a bigger stage than what 2020′s Fourth of July has brought.

The coronavirus pandemic wiped out plans for the tradition of the Boston Pops and fireworks on the Esplanade due to the cancelation of large events by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

The day revered for celebrating the birth of American independence once meant enjoying fireworks along the Charles River from a rooftop for Richard Black. Now, it’s just dessert with a friend, from eight feet away.

“We’re going to have strawberry shortcake, fresh whipped up by me,” Black said.

In the Public Garden, mid-afternoon, a saxophonist played on the bridge above the pond that’s carried swan boats since 1877, but not this year.

“I think COVID has taught us a lot about spending time with family and what’s most important,” said Neisha Gonzalez of Lowell.

>>>MORE: Mass. DPH reports 23 new COVID-19 deaths, 210 more cases

Stephen Rothman of Brookline said he would be going to barbecues, or seeing his parents, but with friends social distancing and his parents in their 60s, his thoughts are now elsewhere.

“I normally wouldn’t think about the fourth as much, but for this year it made me think about, for a lot of people, for a lot of races, this holiday doesn’t really apply to them,” he said.

Rothman referenced protests locally and nationally in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Natalia Linos is the Executive Director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University. She said health disparities, from COVID-19 to diabetes to maternal mortality, are afflicting poor Americans and people of color more than others; she believes America is not fulfilling its promise.

“So today offers an opportunity to reclaim the words of our Founding Fathers and build a future that truly ensures justice, liberty, prosperity and independence for all, and protects health and human rights,” Linos added.

William Waters, a veteran from Waltham, joined fellow parishioners from Quincy in feeding homeless Bostonians in the shadow of the Old State House.

“The people need to be comforted and healed,” Waters said.

For Waters, Independence Day is a way to continue his service and look after those who are vulnerable.

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