Visitors at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial honor civil rights l - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Visitors at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial honor civil rights leader on 45th anniversary of assassination

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Locals and tourists alike marked the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination by visiting the memorial to the slain civil rights leader along the National Mall.

"It's breathtaking," says Mahlon Tibbs, seeing the memorial for the first time and visiting from Norfolk, Va. "The artwork on it is lovely."

"He would not have wanted this," says Rev. Owen Alston, leading a tour group of his church members from New Jersey. "But we want to remember him for what he did."

One man visiting from Oklahoma summed up his impression this way: "It's a kind of memorial that really makes you want to be silent and just kind of think about the times that he lived in and what he stood for and what he accomplished as a leader," says Michael Yeager, who was 21 years old and a college student at the University of Oklahoma in Norman when Dr. King was murdered.

"Of course, Vietnam was going on too at the same time," Yeager continues, "and a lot of student demonstrations and that sort of thing. Unfortunately, it sort of fit in to the pattern of upheaval in the country."

Dr. King was shot and killed on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tenn., on the evening of April 4, 1968.

"That was sad. It was a horrible day," says Wilhelmina Palmer, visiting from South Carolina.

"He could have just walked away and said it's somebody else's problem," says Jovan Dungee, also visiting the memorial from his home in South Carolina. "But the fact that he gave his life for something they he believed in, and that's what I try to instill in my children, the fact that you should never settle for less and always strive to be the best you can."

The assassination sparked destructive rioting here in Washington, and in big cities across the country.

"It was sadness," says Rev. Alston. "It was anger. It was frustration. I'm going to be honest with you. We were almost at the brink of civil war in this nation. A lot of people don't know that."

But at the memorial Thursday evening, there was nothing but a calming reflection with flickers of light, honoring a dream.

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