MLK 50TH

March on Washington: Emotions run high at the Reflecting Pool

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WASHINGTON (WJLA) - The scene on Wednesday at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool mirrored that of 50 years ago – people lining the perimeter, eyewitnesses to history.

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Genie Foster of Morgantown, W.Va. was here in 1963 and she points out where she thinks she might have been standing back then.

"This is truly amazing, truly amazing. We've come so far," she said.

Foster joined a crowd of tens of thousands, transcending race and generation, in remembering what took place that great day and ever since.

Sixteen-year-old Terrell Evans said, "That was so recent and things have changed since then, it's unspeakable."

Many started gathering for the 50th anniversary at the break of dawn, withstanding the occasional torrential downpours. The precipitation at times matched their emotional outpouring for the day.

Eighty-year-old Henry Hearns made the trek from Southern California.

"My eyes may be red, I've been crying all day," he said. "I lost it. I've been through too much. I grew up on a plantation and so this is absolutely emotional for me."

Their emotions were equaled only by excitement as they listened to the three presidents speak.

It all came full-circle for District resident Bill Tate, who marched in 1963 and returned to hear a black president speak:

"Elation. It really gives you hope in the goodness of people," he says.

And for those who couldn't make it past the crowds, they experienced the day outside of the Reflecting Pool, peering into history through barrier fences.

"I'm a native Washingtonian and just had this spiritual pull to come down here," says Harold Taylor.

And he wasn’t the only one. Lots of attendees got as close as possible to the celebration, even if it meant listening to the first African American president via stereo on Constitution Avenue.

Dr. Walter Bowers was one of them. He made his way from Cincinnati and paid a price for civil rights. 

"I spent about four days on the county chain gang the day before the march."

That experience, along with standing on the Mall back in 1963, drove his desire to eventually become a surgeon and return to Washington.

Echoing sentiments of perseverance on the day of the 50th anniversary, Mark Morial with the Urban League says, "It was simply a commemorative event. It was a continuation."

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