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Irene Cuts MLK Festivities Short

WASHINGTON - A planned weekend dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall has been postponed until September or October due to approaching Hurricane Irene.

The Sunday event would have been the culmination of a five-day celebration of the newest monument in Washington.

Harry E. Johnson Sr., chief executive officer of the foundation building the new memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I’m really disappointed and really hurt. But the memorial is going to be there forever.”

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

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

An interfaith prayer service scheduled at the National Shrine of the Basilica on Saturday will go on as planned and will be the last official event of the celebration.

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.

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

“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.” 



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