Visitors from around the country visit Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s memorial

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Washington (GRAY DC) -- Half a century after his assassination, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy is etched in stone -- and continues to inspire to this day.

Visitors from around the country commemorated his life by visiting his memorial on the 50th anniversary of his death.

Vanessa Graves of Georgia said she didn’t plan her trip to the memorial on the National Mall. Looking up at the monument, and reflecting on King’s legacy moved her to tears. “He’s done a lot, for our community, for everybody, not just one race, but every race,” she said, “why couldn’t he be here, that’s what’s going through [my mind], why couldn’t he be here now?”

King made his mark on America as a champion for civil rights, with a focus on love and acceptance of all people. “I want to live up to that,” said Gregory Carter of Georgia, “and pass that along to my children.”

King fought to end racial segregation and injustice as well as for the working class. First-graders interviewed at the memorial hadn’t fully absorbed King’s context in America, but many parents and grandparents said visits like this help the lesson sink-in for youngsters.

Kentucky parent Jessica Mcvey said kids may not be able to comprehend everything, but she said it’s important to get kids to understand the basics. “Just for what he stood for, the change that he brought, and it’s just a good lesson to teach my daughter,” she said.

Tim Gates of South Carolina and his wife brought their grandkids to the memorial to the man they looked up to growing up. “We share some of those different experiences that we have with our grands,” he said, “and talk about those things that are significant to us, hoping that they will one day appreciate it.”

Kentucky middle-schooler Caraline Perkins had no problem making a connection between King’s life and a lesson for current day. “I feel that you don’t have to be violent,” she said, “you can talk things out, and there’s always a different way.”

Visits to the memorial generally only last for about an hour.
While those memories aren’t carved in stone -- phones and cameras can help ensure they’re remembered for a lifetime.

It’s unclear how many people visited the memorial Wednesday -- or even this year. That’s because the the National Parks Service only tracks attendance at all the D.C. monuments and memorials.

But, spokespeople said it’s easy to track peaks in interest along the National Mall with a calendar.

“I think when you look at any of the anniversaries, Dr. King’s assassination or when he was born, or the Selma to Montgomery march anniversaries,” said Nancy Murray with the National Parks Service, “I think the memorials like that take on more significance because people are more interested in the historical context, and the reasoning behind erecting the memorial.”

The National Parks Service did not host events at the memorial, but outside groups did. Along with a morning prayer vigil, thousands silently marched from the King Memorial across the National Mall.