With Hurricane Irene bearing down on the nation's capital, organizers postponed a planned weekend dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall, dashing hopes of paying tribute to the civil rights leader on the 48th anniversary of his "I Have a Dream" speech.
The dedication had been planned for 11 a.m. Sunday, and organizers expected up to 250,000 people to attend. President Barack Obama was one of the scheduled speakers, and organizers were in the process of setting up a stage and chairs beside the King memorial, which sits on a 4-acre waterfront site in the nation's capital.
Harry Johnson, the president of the foundation that built the memorial, announced at a hastily called news conference Thursday evening that the dedication will be postponed until September or October. Hours earlier, Johnson had insisted at another media briefing that the dedication would continue as scheduled.
He changed his mind after studying forecasts that indicated Irene was strengthening and tracking more toward the west.
"I remained optimistic all day, but Mother Nature is Mother Nature," Johnson said. "I'm very disappointed and hurt, really. We all are."