Buoyed by weather more likely to be found in May or June, hundreds of people gathered yesterday morning outside City Hall to take part in Newburyport’s annual Veterans Day celebration.
The gathering outside City Hall began after a short parade that stepped off on Pond Street then made its way down High Street and Green Street until turning left onto Pleasant Street.
After Mayor Donna Holaday read the names of local veterans who died between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Veterans Agent Kevin Hunt addressed the crowd.
Hunt’s speech centered on the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. Hunt said most of the people living in Newburyport at the time would have been members of the Federalist party, which had been against the idea of starting another war with the British. Hundreds of residents went as far as to sign a petition, which was then sent to Washington, D.C.
Hunt said the town was already reeling from the Embargo Act of 1807 that forbade commerce with Great Britain and France, and its residents saw another conflict with Great Britain as even more harmful.
“It basically killed the shipping industry in Newburyport,” Hunt said of the Embargo Act.
Hunt went on to discuss the origin of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which came from a poem written by Francis Scott Key while watching bombs bursting in air over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. He concluded his remarks with a few words regarding what this country’s veterans have sacrificed in order to protect its borders and defend its interests overseas.
“They wrote a blank check, payable with their lives. Veterans don’t start wars, they end them,” Hunt said.
Following the celebration outside City Hall, the parade continued down Green Street, into Market Square, up State Street and finishing at Veterans Cemetery at the base of Pond Street.
Hunt and Holaday placed wreaths at the base of the cemetery’s flagpole and the Newburyport High School band performed “Amazing Grace” and a haunting rendition of Taps.
Among those in the crowd were City Councilors Thomas Jones, Robert Cronin, Kathleen O’Connor Ives and Thomas O’Brien.
Yesterday marked O’Connor Ives’ last parade as a city councilor, as she soon will be sworn in as the First Essex District’s newest senator. City councilors are expected to name a successor to O’Connor Ives shortly.
Asked if she felt any sadness knowing yesterday was her last parade as a city councilor, Ives said it was hard to be sad knowing she’d be back soon marching in city parades, only with a different job title.
“It will just be in a different capacity. These are all my good friends,” she said, pointing to her fellow city councilors.