Irene can't keep SC students from documenting new DC memorial - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Irene can't keep SC students from documenting new DC memorial

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By Logan Smith - bio | email

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WIS) - Hurricane Irene caused a change of plans for some Midlands college students who were in Washington, D.C. working on a special project. They went to Washington for the dedication of the memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King's life and work, but Irene had other plans.

Within hours of arriving on Thursday, three South Carolina State University students and their mentor found out the dedication was canceled. Instead of speaking to the crowd about King's legacy, President Obama was speaking to his advisers about the hurricane bearing down on the East Coast. Still, Ashley Burkes wasn't deterred by the weather. "Yeah, it did affect us in that we got rained on," she said. "But our mission here is so much more important. It's so much bigger than us. It's getting the message out to other people."

That mission is the other reason the group went to DC. They're making a school documentary about King's monument and what it represents. "Dr. King wasn't a political leader," said Burkes. "He didn't hold a political office. He was just a preacher, and this is telling me that you don't have to be president to make a change."

Despite the heavy rain preceding the oncoming hurricane, Eric Smith said the experience was almost surreal. "It was a defining moment in my life," he said. "It's something I can say to my children that I was there when the monument was finally able to be viewed by the public."

Now it will stand as a message to future generations, a message reflected in the students' work as well. "It helps to let other people know that students can too be a part of the dynamic change in the world," said Smith.

It's a message bigger than any of them and certainly bigger than even a powerful storm.

The SC State students will return to South Carolina Monday and hope to premiere their documentary October 7 at the I.P. Stanback Museum on campus.

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