WASHINGTON (WJZ) — Hundreds lined up for the opportunity to make history: to be among the first visitors to see the image of Martin Luther King Jr.– a 29-foot image. Many people were overcome with emotion as they took in the sites of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.
Last week, Vic Carter had an opportunity to visit the memorial and to get a first-hand look to see what it looks like.
Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln. The forefathers of our country look out over a new monument to a national hero. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is a 4-acre grand tribute to a dreamer, a peacemaker, a champion of social change.
“What happens the first time you see this, a lump gets in your throat and maybe a little tear wells up in your eyes,” said Harry Johnson.
It is a dream that is decades in the making.
As part of the planning, Vic Carter was director of communications for the foundation. He worked closely with the late Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s widow. Now that it’s a reality, WJZ is the first TV station to get a look at the project, since the scaffolding came down. Our guide was Harry Johnson, the president of the foundation.
Where everyone starts the tour of the memorial, the path is “open wide and then it gets narrower going down. Basically indicates the struggle of going through the Civil Rights Movement,” Johnson said.
Visitors pass through the mountain of despair– two towering pieces of granite– into the wide open plaza.
“So you just walk along out this mountain of despair, which we just walked through, [and then there is] a stone of hope. Keep walking and lo and behold, boom, you look up. And there is Dr. King,” Johnson said.
Reaching up three stories, King’s image emerges from the stone. The memorial’s architect say it’s both an educational and moving experience.
“He’s there looming large, looking over the Tidal Basin in the direction of FDR and Jefferson, joining the members of our forefathers who gave birth to this nation,” he said.
After people get over the awe of the massive statue of Dr. King, they get to interact with the memorial even more. Along a wall are 14 of King’s most famous quotes.
“‘You must believe people everywhere can have three meals a day for their body, education, a culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits,’ ” Johnson read from the wall. “From 1964, but how relevant it is today.”
When people leave the memorial, “I want them to leave here, knowing, understanding and believing who Dr. King really was,” Johnson said. “What Dr. King really meant. Not just in this country, but indeed, the world.”
The MLK memorial sits on a 4-acre site and costs $250 million to build. The money was raised primarily through the efforts of Dr. King’s fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha and many private donations. The land was donated by the National Parks Service.
President Barack Obama will lead the official dedication this Sunday, Aug. 28—48 years after Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.