On a trip to Philadelphia in 1975, Sea Cliff resident Henry Holman visited Graff House, at 7th and Market streets. At the time the stately red-brick home where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in June 1776 was being rebuilt.
Demolition debris was scattered across the site. Holman spotted a brick, pocketed it and returned to Sea Cliff with it. Every Fourth of July, the Sea Cliff Civic Association displays Holman’s brick as part of the village’s Independence Day celebration.
“I don’t know if it has as much meaning to everyone, but for some people, it’s almost a relic that they want to touch,” said Ann DiPietro, the Sea Cliff Civic Association president. “Each year we add a little something [to the celebration], we take a little something away, but this year was perfection.”
People gathered on Sea Cliff’s village green wearing all shades of red, white and blue. They waved American flags and cooled themselves with papers fans. Children blew bubbles and sported star-shaped sunglasses while weaving in and out of the crowd, lost in play. At the base of the flagpole in the center of it all stood a framed copy of the Declaration of Independence.
Mayor Edward Lieberman rang the village bell, and the crowd grew quiet. Boy Scouts presented the colors, led by Ruben Shonik, on drums, and Charlotte Marchese, on flute, playing “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
After the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the national anthem, DiPietro welcomed all in attendance. Because the Fourth of July celebrates the birth of the nation, she remarked, it was natural that people would remember notable Revolutionary War figures. She even said people should remember the traitorous Benedict Arnold, a one-time patriot who joined the British side in 1780.
“It was not greed nor arrogance nor hate that led him to give up hope, but rather bloodshed and death,” DiPietro said. “Today we should think of the despair he felt, but also remember the stories of the patriots who never gave up, who dreamed the impossible dream.”
DiPietro later said that “the impossible dream” was the theme of this year’s celebration. “Every year there are new struggles and battles to be fought, but we were here, we gathered together, we were one people,” she said.
A cast of residents playing descendants of the signers of the Declaration read passages detailing their struggles in the fight for independence. Glen Cove resident Joe Stroppel, 15, kept with the theme by singing “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha.”
Afterward, John Canning read the entire Declaration of Independence. Spectators were invited to recite the last paragraph, and hollered after the reading.
“This epitomizes what a village is all about and how it glorifies our independence,” Lieberman said. “And reminds us of our everyday duty to be diligent and vigilant in our freedom.”