It’s probably overstating it a bit to say that this Fourth of July had

special significance.

Anyone who lived through the shock and horror of last September knew

that fireworks and festivities from this year’s Independence Day


celebrations would tug at our patriotic heart strings like never before.

It also was a time of special caution. Firefighters throughout the

Southwest are being taxed like never before as the some of the driest

years on record are giving way to fierce firestorms that have engulfed


hundreds of thousands of acres of timber and brush lands as well as

hundreds of homes. In Laguna last week, there was a frightening taste of

the familiar as a small fire erupted in Laguna Canyon but was contained

before it could do too much damage.

Still, that charred hillside is an aching reminder of the past and

what could be.

But the Fourth of July -- and this whole long weekend for those lucky

enough to have today off -- is an excellent time to reflect on just how


fortunate we are to live in one of the greatest nations on earth.

How fortunate we are to live in a country that values freedom and

human life and human dignity.

How fortunate we are that despite all of our disagreements, despite

our political and personal squabbles, the United States is as united as

ever and will never back down from any threat, terrorist or otherwise.

How fortunate we are to have those brave souls, firefighters,

policeman and others, who lost their lives trying to save others in the


terrorist attacks.

How fortunate we are to have the greatest military in the world, many

of whom are now across the globe defending our freedoms, risking, and

even losing, their lives to protect those freedoms.

So, yes, keep all those blessings in mind this year, and once again we

hope you had a happy and safe Fourth of July.