D.C.

Martin Luther King Jr. memorial opens to the public

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(WJLA, AP) - Tourists and Washingtonians alike got their first up-close look of the memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many were moved by the 30-foot statue of King and the granite wall inscribed with famous quotes of the civil rights leader.

Crowds gather near the King sculpture on the opening day of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. (Photo: Jummy Olabanji/ABC7)

“It's a long time coming,” said Richard Jenkins.

John Stuckey was a student at Emory University in Atlanta in 1968 and attended King's funeral. Looking at his King’s likeness carved in stone brought him to tears.

“Now that I see it in person it really captures him,” he said.

The site is opening Monday morning without fanfare to kick off a week of celebrations ahead of Sunday's official dedication.

Especially for older visitors like Rosa Suber relished seeing the memorial. Suber followed King and supported the fight for civil rights.

“He was too outspoken. And too many people didn't like him, because he was fighting for a cause,” Suber said.

“I'm excited to see it. I'm excited, very much,” said D.C. native Michael Berry, who had drawn a portrait of King.

Visitors filed through the granite archway, cameras clicking. There it was: the 30-foot-tall sculpture of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“He looks like a powerful man, one of the most powerful men to ever walk this earth,” said Tehran Wadley.

The memorial sits on the National Mall near the Tidal Basin, between monuments honoring Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. It includes the  sculpture of King and a 450-foot-long granite wall inscribed with 14 quotations from the civil rights leader.

“Here I am 48 years later and I'm going to start crying. It's incredibly moving,” said Shelagh Towson of Windsor, Ontario.

D.C native Leon Thompson echoed what many said, “Some of his dreams have come true, but we got a long way to go.”

Sunday's dedication ceremony will mark the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington and King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak at the dedication.

Donnell Johnson came with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren, three generations to honor a great man and celebrate another step in the march toward a dream fulfilled.

The Metro will accommodate expected visitors by opening at 5 a.m. on Sunday as well as offering free parking at all stations. No bicycles will be allowed on the trains.

Visit wmata.com/MLK to get walking directions, review maps and get travel tips.

To learn more on the new memorial, watch our ABC7 News special "Dedicating The Dream." The hour-long report airs Friday at 8 p.m. on ABC7.

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