Crowds Return for Tomorrow’s Dedication of King Memorial

The threat of severe weather from Hurricane Irene in early September forced organizers to postpone the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial for more than a month. Despite the weather, some visitors gathered at the memorial anyway, and many have returned to join first-timers at tomorrow’s dedication.

The festivities will be webcast, beginning at 8 a.m. with CNN correspondent Roland Martin as host of an hour-long “Morning Joy.” Gwen Ifill of PBS NewsHour will host the dedication program starting at 9 a.m. Members of King’s family, civil rights leaders, musicians and poets will pay tribute to King during the program. President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak at the ceremony, which starts at 11 a.m

“It’s a long time coming,” John Huerta said of the King memorial, which was authorized by Congress in 1996. Huerta and his wife traveled to Washington from West Virginia for an early peek at the memorial.

Dee Smith was also moved by the monument. “Words can’t express the idea that you have, not a president, but someone of his character that believed in non-violence to be in the area among other dignitaries,” Smith said.

A group of 43 students and chaperones from Cleveland were among those who defied Irene to view the memorial.

“King’s message is so important,” said Uris Soloman, 15, a student in Closing the Gap, who visited D.C. for the first time. “The storm didn’t scare me. I wanted to be here either way.”

“We couldn’t miss this,” said Cecil Gamble, an advisor to the group, Closing the Gap, which mentors black and Hispanic males to reduce the achievement gap.

“What Dr. King fought for is the same thing we’re fighting for today,” he said.

Gamble said he watched Dr. King march down his street growing up and is proud he is represented on the National Mall.

The King memorial includes three parts:

  1. Mountain of Despair, which serves as the entrance
  2. Stone of Hope, which bears the likeness of Dr. King
  3. Inscription Wall, which features the civil rights leader’s quotes on justice, democracy, hope and love.

Crowds flowed in and out of the memorial, and travelers from all over took pictures and gaped at the massive 28-foot monument of Dr. King, crafted by Master Sculptor Lei Yixin.