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MLK Memorial Dedication Postponed As Hurricane Irene Looms Off East Coast

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The 'Stone of Hope' sculpture of Martin Luther King by Chinese artist Lei Yixin is the first memorial on the National Mall to honor an African-American and the first to honor a person who did not serve as president. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The ‘Stone of Hope’ sculpture of Martin Luther King by Chinese artist Lei Yixin is the first memorial on the National Mall to honor an African-American and the first to honor a person who did not serve as president. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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UPDATED 08/26/11 7:37 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – The Martin Luther King memorial dedication set for Sunday in Washington, D.C.. has been cancelled because of Hurricane Irene, disappointing dozens of Chicagoans who had hoped to honor the civil-rights icon.

A group of people from St. Sabina church were gathering at the church Thursday getting ready to leave when the news hit. About 60 people — ranging in age from teens to seniors — were all excited for their bus trip to witness the dedication. It was to fall on the 48th anniversary of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the Washington mall.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said in a telephone interview on the CBS 2 Morning News Friday that many people are disappointed that the ceremony has to be postponed, but safety must take precedence. If the ceremony went ahead in inclement weather, a situation like the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair could result, he said.

“The fear is that with the anticipated winds and rain, that the stage, for example, could very well be too fragile, as what happened in Indiana, for example. Also, 30,000 chairs – if the wind begins to hurtle chairs, they would be like bullets of sorts,” Jackson said, “and so while there’s some measure of disappointment among those around the country who either can’t get in or get out because of the airplanes, the good news is that the statue has not been postponed, just the celebration.”

A new dedication date has not been set.

“They’re going to reinstate it again, because he deserves it,” Willie Barrow, a field organizer for King who was set to travel with the St. Sabina group, told CBS 2. “It was storming in the nation when he made his speech.”

The memorial site opened to the public earlier this week. The King tribute is the first national memorial dedicated to a civilian.

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