See photos of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the Washington Post website. My favorite is #7, the guy with the saxophone. The caption says he "was unable to play at the risk of being asked to leave by the U.S. Park Service." I found that funny because he was in my zone while he was doing that. I admit I was concerned when he brought the sax out to get a photo of himself posing there, but when he wasn't playing, I didn't need to approach him. If I had really been doing my job to the letter, I would have asked him to fold up his tripod, which actually was in violation of regulations! For more news coverage, visit http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/specialreports/MLKmemorial
The memorial is a unique experience on the National Mall. No other memorial brings you through the valley of a mountain into a plaza with a 28.5-foot tall statue. It's an open park-like space, yet it still feels like it is embracing you as you stand there with the arcing wall of inscriptions behind the statue. Some have said it looks like he's scowling, and some photographs make it seem so, but when you stand next to the statue, you can see that it is a look of resolute, self-assurance, an unyielding posture of a man who wants change and is tired of waiting.
Monday was the first day the public was allowed into the memorial. We had fences and chains set up to direct the flow of people through the memorial, preparing for the crowd to reach a point where we would need to restrict access to prevent overcrowding. It never came to that either of the first two days, so we just kept the gate open. There was a steady flow of people throughout the day.
I was mentally prepared for protests or some sort of uproar, but people mostly behaved themselves. The question I got most was "What kind of stone is it made out of," followed by "Where is the stone from." The stone is shrimp pink granite, and it was quarried in China. I always tell people the same story Dr. Jackson told me, that the stone was what they wanted and they found out later it was from China. The same goes for the sculptor, Lei Yixin, who was selected because he was the best in the world as judged by his own peers. He is also from China.
Although people will complain in print about this or that, the reaction on the site from the public was overwhelmingly positive. People stood in awe of the sculpture, they took time to read the inscriptions on the wall, and many stayed for hours, just soaking up the place and the moment.
At first, I was most concerned with making sure people behaved appropriately. We only had very minor incidents with people distributing literature in unauthorized places, and we had one guy with a megaphone preaching from the median on Independence Ave. The chains we had set up kept most people moving through the memorial as intended. So with people largely behaving themselves, I just enjoyed watching the show and mugging for photos with anyone who wanted one. Some people asked for my "autograph" on the newspapers when they found out I had written for it. The newspapers were disappearing as fast as we could put them out; people were grabbing whole stacks of them for souvenirs.
Tuesday, I went into work early to help open up the memorial. I remembered to put on sunscreen after getting cooked on Monday. I took my hour lunch break at 1:00. After eating, I struggled to stay awake in the trailer, and set my phone's alarm to go off at 1:50. I managed not to fall asleep and started heading back to my duty post when the reminder alarm buzzed on my hip. While I was walking back through the partially-unfinished walkway in the construction area of the memorial, I felt for a moment that I had stepped on a loose slab of rock, or like I had stepped onto a moving walkway or escalator. It was either that or my inner ear was doing something weird, which it has been known to do. Only when I got to the next ranger to relieve him did he ask me, "Did you feel the earthquake?" Well, no, I really hadn't, but now that you mentioned it, I did feel a little dizzy a second ago.
A 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck southwest of Washington, D.C. at 1:51 pm on 8/23/11, which was why I felt like I had stepped on a loose rock or onto a moving walkway. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt. We were all immediately most concerned about the Washington Monument, a building that is clearly the most unsafe place to be during an earthquake. I've told visitors as much who have asked about earthquakes while we were in the top of the Washington Monument. There was rapid-fire radio traffic as rangers checked on each other and evacuated any place with a roof on it. Everyone was OK. Other than an increase in lights and sirens on the street, business as usual continued at the King Memorial, where our site leader said over the radio we were "happy as clams." U.S. Park Police were in full-on incident command mode in short order. The earthquake was the third-largest in recorded history in this part of the country.
At home, although Grandma and Alison evacuated the building along with our neighbors, nothing was damaged. Some of our wall hangings went askew, and a couple boxes fell off the shelf in the closet, but otherwise nothing was affected.
|I can't blame the earthquake for all the mess in the photo, but the pile of stuff on the floor was on the shelf before 1:51 pm.|
|Oh no, my wall hangings are askew!|
|Earthquakes are nothing to laugh about.|