With interpretive ranger staff from the National Mall and Memorial Parks and enforcement help from the U.S. Park Police on hand, the National Park Service held a "soft opening" of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial for the public this past Monday.
A steady stream of visitors made their way into the newest memorial within the National Mall and Memorial Parks to cries of "finally," "how magnificent," and "how truly American." Tears were visible on some visitors' faces; gasps followed by "that's him" were also heard. Some in the crowd exclaimed, "King has taken his rightful place among American icons."
The MLK Memorial is the first memorial within the National Mall and Memorial Parks to an African American individual and not for either a U.S. president or a war.
Dr. King is depicted as emerging from a "Stone of Hope" that has symbolically left a hole or gap in the "Mountain of Despair," visible to visitors as they walk into the MLK Memorial from a forecourt area. The MLK Memorial occupies four acres on the northwest side of the Tidal Basin and lies directly on a line between the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials.
Preparations continue for this Sunday's official dedication ceremonies, which are expected to feature President Obama and many other dignitaries. The event will appear on national television on the cable news channels.
At the "Media Day" held just prior to the "soft opening," news cameras from literally around the globe were on hand to obtain close-ups and a variety of other shots of the newest addition to the nation's capital.
The MLK Memorial will officially open on Monday, August 29th, and will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. The "soft opening" will continue this week through 10 p.m. this evening. The MLK Memorial will then close to the public on Friday and Saturday for final dedication preparations.
Tickets are required for entrance into a seated area for the dedication site on Sunday. Visitors without tickets may access the larger dedication, but will be located in an area where direct line-of-sight to the dedication stage and the MLK Memorial will not be possible. Large screen "jumbo-trons" will be situated so non-ticketed visitors may still see and hear the dedication ceremony.