Some 2,000 uniformed police, constant air combat patrols overhead and a vast network of cameras were in place, all aimed at preventing any attack on the gathering.
People attending the ceremony had to enter the Mall through one of 24 screening areas, an unprecedented effort to protect the area. Police in the city were confident they could keep the festivities secure.
“This is going to be the safest city in the nation today,” Sgt. Scott Fear of the U.S. Park Police, the force charged with patrolling the Mall, told the Associated Press.
By 9:00pm EDT, some half-million people were expected to crowd the Mall to hear a concert featuring Aretha Franklin and the National Symphony and to watch a huge fireworks display near the Washington Monument.
At the White House, President Bush’s spokesman Ari Fleicher said that there had been no indication of any security concerns as of midday.
“Hopefully, today will be a quiet, joyous day of celebration,” Fleicher told reporters.
President Bush will return to the District for a planned private gathering to watch the fireworks despite the heightened security presence.
Earlier in the day, the president traveled to Ripley, West Virginia where he issued his Independence Day Proclamation before thousands of veterans and others.
“As we act to lift the dark cloud of terror from our Nation and the world, we reaffirm our determination to preserve our Forefathers’ legacy of freedom. In doing so, we honor their legacy as we move forward into the 21st century,” Mr. Bush said. “On this Independence Day we pay special tribute to all those currently serving in the Armed Forces and to our veterans. Their contributions have been critical to the defense of our country, and our Nation is grateful.”
Homeland security officials said they planned to monitor as many as 2,000 July Fourth celebrations across the country, but much of the focus remained on Washington, DC.