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Posted at 07:48 PM ET, 08/25/2011

MLK dedication postponed

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The foundation building Washington’s new memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. announced Thursday that Sunday’s dedication has been postponed in anticipation of Hurricane Irene.

The dedication will take place in September or October, said Harry E. Johnson Sr., the chief executive of the foundation building the memorial.
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 16: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is shown in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, June 16, 2011. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post) (Nikki Kahn - THE WASHINGTON POST)

Johnson said the decision after the storm intensified and began to track to the west. He said safety of those who planned to attend the event was a concern.

“I’m really disappointed and really hurt,” said Johnson, who was 8 in 1963, when King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. “But the memorial is going to be there forever.”

The interfaith prayer service scheduled at the National Shrine of the Basilica on Saturday will be the last official event of the week of celebrations and commemorations that were to lead up to Sunday’s dedication.

The memorial, the first on the Mall honoring an African American, has been a quarter century in the making. The 30-foot granite likeness of King stands on a landscaped, four-acre site on the northwest shore of the Tidal Basin.

Johnson said the decision was made in consultation with the office of D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), the National Park Service and others, but the final decision was his.

Johnson said officials were pleased that they did a soft opening this week so that those who did travel to Washington could see the monument before having to leave. But other organizers, like Johnson, would stay in the city through the storm.

“For those of us that will stay, we’re going to remain in our hotels and hunker down,” Johnson said.

An interfaith prayer service scheduled for Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception will be the last of a week of events celebrating the opening of the memorial on the Tidal Basin, allowing time, officials said, for visitors and residents to make plans to protect their safety.

“I know people are disappointed by this, but what was paramount was to keep people in safe situations,” Gray said. “There’s no doubt this was one of the monumental occasions in our lives.”

Gray praised Johnson’s and others efforts to plan the event and said the city would work with the foundation to choose a new date for the dedication.

“We’ll call and make sure that no hurricanes will come,” Gray said. “We’ll put this request in right away.”

By  |  07:48 PM ET, 08/25/2011

 
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