Millions of spectators gazing skyward from shorelines, balconies and rooftops lining the East River thrilled to the pyrotechnic bursts and thunderous booms of Macy's 39th annual Fourth of July fireworks on Saturday night.

"Fantastic!" said Bethpage native Iris Caralla of Richmond, Virginia, who captured the show on her smartphone. Her husband, Steve, said, "It was a great experience."

A sea of people watched one of the city's most popular spectacles. Groups, pairs and singles unfurled blankets on the FDR Drive in Manhattan and set them on the roadway as if on a beach instead of a concrete artery providing a front-row seat to the 25-minute fireworks show that featured more than 50,000 shells and effects. Others watched from Brooklyn and Queens.

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"It is very awesome to be here," said Rahil Khalili of Norman, Oklahoma, sporting a scarf with the colors of the American flag. Khalili was confident that her first time viewing the Macy's display would be a safe one -- a feeling reinforced by the omnipresence of police officers on the highway and each corner leading to it. Some 7,000 officers -- one-fifth of the NYPD's force -- were mobilized to discourage any would-be terrorists.

The extravaganza drew all manner of flag-bearers. The Stars and Stripes were equal parts accessory and symbol of patriotism as earrings, dresses, T-shirts and hats.

Retired NYPD Lt. John McNulty of Manhattan said the celebration is among the city's finest displays of spirit and pride. "As a native New Yorker, I think this is wonderful," he said, adding that tight security ensures its success.

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"I think the show of police here helps to make them feel safe," he said.

"We know that the Fourth of July in New York is a big deal," Waldorf said.

With Matthew Chayes