Hurricane Irene interrupted the formal dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the 48th anniversary of the Aug. 28, 1963 “I Have a Dream Speech,” but it did not stop a stream of visitors on their pilgrimage to the memorial on the National Mall.
The skies began to clear about 6 a.m. Sunday – after a full day and a long night of rain – and the sun gradually emerged, bringing with it thousands of people, many of whom had traveled long distances to Washington see the memorial.
Cathy Klozowski said she and her church members from Greater Faith Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, were disappointed that the dedication had been postponed, but had too much invested not to visit the memorial.
"My church spent a load of money on church buses and hotel reservations to accommodate our members this weekend during the ceremony," Klozowski said. "I’m a tad bit disappointed, but that’s what happens," she said. "I’m sure this was minor compared to the adversity Dr. King went through."
The memorial dedication is expected to be rescheduled sometime in September or October. Whenever it’s held, "We’ll be ready" to return, Klozowski said.
As visitors enter the memorial they are welcomed by the parted "Mountain of Despair," then followed by a walk through the narrow canyon, coming out on the other side to see King boldly emerging from the 30-foot-tall “Stone of Hope” with a stern look and his arms crossed.
Walls inscribed with some of King’s most memorable quotes surround the Mountain of Despair. The Stone of Hope stands in the center of the memorial, facing the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial.
"Of all 78 years of my life, I never thought I'd witness such a thing. This statue is the only memorial on the National Mall that doesn’t honor a president or a war, this was a weekend family vacation well worth the trip," said Dorothy Mack, who had traveled with her two sons and her sister from Connecticut to visit the site.
Travelers flying into and out of Reagan National Airport also get a bird’s-eye view of the memorial.
Norma Farrow of Jonesboro, Ark., said the memorial was the first thing she saw as she landed last week.
"Seeing the monument from the sky brought tears to my eyes."
Farrow also quoted her favorite line from a speech delivered by the Rev. Al Sharpton on Friday during a hurriedly organized, impromptu on-site event:
“Move over Lincoln, move over Jefferson, you’ve got new neighbors!”