Local residents head to King Memorial dedication

October 15, 2011 (CHICAGO)

A bus carrying visitors was scheduled to leave from Chicago Saturday morning.

The dedication of the King Memorial should have taken place in August. Instead, it was postponed after Hurricane Irene swept through the Washington region.

The public has been allowed to visit since the planned opening, but Sunday, the opening will be made official.

"This is on my bucket list. Every time I would look at the original march and everything, I would always feel like I should have been there, but I was in third grade, so. But, this is exciting," said Pamela Warner, who was about to board the bus to Washington.

"It's something very special about a national monument being dedicated to Dr. King, and so, I really feel like I need to be there. And so, I'm super excited...about meeting new people and just being a part of history," traveler Robin Tillotson said.

"All Americans should see this. It's truly something to witness," said Rami Hagari of north suburban Evanston.

Despite rainy weather in the nation's capital, nearly everything is already in place for Sunday's ceremony during which President Obama will speak to about 700 invited guests -- including King's family members and civil rights leaders-- in front of what's being called the "Mountain of Despair," the gateway to the memorial. The rest of the public will watch on television screens about a 100 yards away.

"We know that this is something that we will never forget," said visitor Brenda Dickerson, who was set to attend the dedication ceremony.

"I just hope the young people realize what a sacrifice this was. This is hallowed ground here," said one person visiting the memorial in Washington.

"In the midst of presidents and war memorials, you now have a man of peace," another monument visitor said.

The memorial site is closed for the weekend while Secret Service and park police prepare for the president's speech at the dedication.

For the group of about 50 people traveling from Chicago, it is a quick turnaround trip. The bus riders said they would arrive in Washington just in time for the ceremony Sunday, and as soon as it is over, they will get back on the bus and come back to Chicago. But, they say, they really do believe it is all worth it, just for the experience of being there.

ABC7 Chicago's coverage of the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington was scheduled to begin with the Sunday broadcast starting at 6 a.m.

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