Every year on the Fourth of July, Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell is tapped, officially setting off “Let Freedom Ring,” the nationwide celebration of the Declaration of Independence. The individuals lucky enough to tap the Liberty Bell and commence the ceremony must meet a certain requirement — and 11-year-old Great Falls resident William Gottwald, IV, does.
“He is a descendant of Thomas Nelson, Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence from Virginia,” said Wintchell Carroll, a spokesperson for Let Freedom Ring.
At precisely 2 p.m. on the Fourth of July, bells across the country are rung 13 times, signifying the 13 states represented by the original signers of the Declaration of Independence. Descendants of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence have the honor of commencing the ceremony by tapping the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. The first Let Freedom Ring event was held in 1969 and was begun under the stewardship of the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution and its Color Guard.
“He is related on my husband’s mother’s side,” said William’s mother Kathie Gottwald. “My mother-in-law signed all her grandchildren up, so one of my nieces did it, and now my son and my nephew are doing it. Only the descendants of the signers of the Declaration Independence are allowed, so it’s kind of cool.”
William, a student at Colvin Run Elementary School, said he was excited for the event.
“I guess it’s gonna be really fun because it’s a unique experience and not many people get to do it,” he said.
In anticipation of the event, William’s grandmother recently took him to visit Yorktown, so he could get a better idea of who Thomas Nelson, Jr. was, and why he is an important historical figure.
“It will be special, and it’s a unique experience which is why my mother-in-law wanted them to do it,” said Kathie Gottwald.
William is a student at Colvin Run Elementary School and will start the sixth grade next fall.