Fifty years ago on April 4, 1968, Doctor Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee at the Lorraine Motel.
He was known for his commitment to non-violent protests, and he played a key role in organizing demonstrations for racial equality. We sat down with two Rochester residents, Sandra and Lew Means, to talk about what they remember from King's assassination, the immediate aftermath and the impact he had
King was a civil rights icon best known for his "I Have a Dream" speech, that inspired millions. He was in Tennessee to support a garbage-collectors' strike. King stepped out his motel room, and then he was shot.
Sandra Means was with her son at the Detroit zoo when she heard what happened.
"I remember a sense of panic. Because I thought, well it was awful number one, but I felt selfishly the sense of panic that he's gone, and who's going to lead us now? Well, what we need is we all need to be leaders. We all need to be fighters for justice and equality because we're all better together," she said.
Shortly afterward, some of the biggest riots took place in Chicago.
Lew Means was in New York working for IBM.
"I was away from home and I said 'Here we go again.' I mean, Kennedy was shot. Malcolm X was shot, and Bob Kennedy was shot later, I mean, some point in time we have to say enough is enough," he said.
Sandra said King's death was shocking, and despite her worries about who would lead the fight for justice and equality, she found solace in one of his quotes.
"'Even though there may be political and ideological differences between us, we are inextricably entwined.' And that's where we need to be. We need to understand that together we are stronger. And we can't continue to live this separateness that divides us, we need to work together."
Cities across the country are holding events to honor King. And on April 21 and 22, the Rochester Symphony will be honoring Dr. King and the goodness in America that he inspired. The concert will explore themes of immigration, patriotism and democracy culminating in the celebration of all that Dr. King hope for America.