My first attempt was last Thursday, August 25. The memorial opened earlier that week for what was originally billed as “DC Day,” but all were welcome. I thought because I was local I would be one step ahead, but I was wrong. I knew where to park, but so did everyone else. Ohio Drive was packed. Even though it was late, there were no spots. By the time I finally found parking I was a mile away. The sun had long set and, it was dark. Very dark. Lamp posts lined Ohio Drive, but they were dark too.
I followed the shadows in front of me towards Independence Avenue. But before we got there we hit a path, more like a road. It led to a barricade. It was not an entrance. I pulled out my phone for some light and more information. And that’s when I learned the dedication had just been cancelled.
Now I was really on a mission. I continued down Ohio Drive, past more barricades, and rows of port-a-potties. I could see two big video screens and hundreds of chairs. I snapped photos along the way of what was to be.
I arrived at the entrance and saw people streaming out. But unfortunately I could not go in. This time I was at the right place, but wrong time. The memorial closed at 10 p.m. and it was now a few minutes past the hour. My hopes of seeing the memorial before the dedication, and even the dedication, were gone.
Sunday came, Irene left, and the Memorial opened. Plans to go that afternoon, and then that evening, evaporated. But not for hundreds of others who made it there.
Maybe that’s why I appreciated it even more on it’s third official day and my third attempt. Park Ranger, Don Stanko, provided a silver lining, not only with his vast knowledge of the MLK, Jr. Memorial, but other local DC monuments. Who knew there was a monument to the Titanic in DC? But, I digress.
What Stanko said was that most people who came for the dedication would not have been able to see the monument, but on Sunday all had access just as it should be. For me the silver lining was meeting 96-year-old, Willie Flood. He’s lived in DC for 61 years and heard Dr. King speak on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1957 and again during the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. When asked what he thought of the memorial he simply said, “It’s beautiful.” I agree. It is every bit as spectacular as they say, from the panoramic views of the Jefferson Memorial to the giant life-like sculpture of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his poetic words etched around him, it is a site to behold.