- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Work is scheduled to begin later this week on a long-awaited memorial to the 114 people who died and hundreds of others who were injured in Kansas City’s skywalk disaster 34 years ago.

The Skywalk Memorial Foundation has scheduled a groundbreaking for Friday morning at Hospital Hill Park, across the street from the former Hyatt Regency hotel where two concrete and steel skywalks came crashing down 34 years ago.

Talks of a memorial have been around since soon after the collapse, but efforts began to coalesce on the 25th anniversary of the July 17, 1981, disaster, The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/1I1z8GQ ) reported. A design was unveiled five years later.

“It’s taken a long time, but things that are worthwhile sometimes take a lot of effort and I guess this is one of those things,” said Brent Wright, president of the memorial foundation, who lost his mother and stepfather in the disaster.

The memorial also will honor the rescuers, survivors and families.

Created by artist and Kansas City native Rita Blitt, it will include a 20-foot abstract sculpture atop a pedestal. To some, the sculpture may resemble a couple dancing, while others might see a broken heart.

Bolts holding two skywalks that were suspended - one above the other - failed during a popular live-music dance in the lobby of the still-new Hyatt. Seventy tons of steel and concrete came crashing down, crushing many who had either been on or below the structures. It was later determined that the suspension system was flawed and placed too much stress on the bolts.

The engineers responsible lost their licenses, and there were about $140 million in judgments and settlements.

Blitt donated her design for the memorial, and the Zahner sheet metal company is donating the fabrication, said Bill Quatman, vice president of the memorial foundation. The final construction bid was about $347,000, plus about $22,000 in other design fees.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department requires a maintenance endowment of $87,000. The memorial foundation is about $50,000 shy of that amount, but it can be fulfilled in installments over four years.

“We’ve been determined to see this thing through and not give up the effort until it’s done … We’re confident we can do it,” Quatman said.

Among the speakers scheduled Friday will be former Kansas City Mayor Dick Berkley, who remained at the Hyatt all that night, and Sol Koenigsberg, who survived the disaster along with his wife, Rosette.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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