- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A memorial was dedicated Thursday in Kansas City to the 114 people killed 34 years ago in one of the nation’s worst structural disasters.

Etched upon the 24-foot sculpture are the names of the victims of the skywalk collapse at Kansas City’s former Hyatt Regency Hotel, The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/1PECxyv ) reported. The collapse occurred July 17, 1981, during a dance that drew about 1,500 people to the hotel. Shortly after 7 p.m., the fourth-floor skywalk gave way, falling on a second-floor skywalk. Then both dropped about 45 feet into the crowded lobby.

“This was the moment in history that wrenched innocent loved ones from our arms and not our hearts,” survivor Frank Freeman said at the dedication. “Mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, sisters, brothers, friends, spouses and lovers - all were gone in an instant. Gone. Just gone. How could that be?”

Besides the fatalities, more than 200 were injured. The memorial, located near the scene of the disaster, also honors the families, the survivors and the rescuers who rushed to the scene to cut people out of the twisted metal.

Brent Wright, who lost his mother and stepfather, was among about 200 people from around the country who attended the dedication. The abstract sculpture, entitled “Sending Loves,” depicts a couple embraced in dance.

“They gathered there for a Friday night tea dance,” Wright said. “They were looking forward to a night of music, dancing, fun with family and friends, and instead that night turned into disaster and tragedy.”

John Sullivan brought his 11-year-old daughter, Kathryn. She was born on the birthday of her grandmother, who died at the Hyatt, and was named after her.

Sullivan said he thought it odd that his parents were not at their Blue Springs home that night. He was seeing news of the skywalk collapse on television. His dad’s friend phoned to say he thought Sullivan’s folks had gone down to the Hyatt.

“I was 24,” recalled Sullivan, a lawyer, who moved to Dallas in part to get away from constantly seeing the Hyatt in the Kansas City skyline. “It was an ominous feeling of horrible fear. A paralyzing, gripping thing.”

In all, more than 300 donors made cash or in-kind contributions to the nonprofit Skywalk Memorial Foundation, which took nearly 10 years to raise $550,000 for the memorial and a maintenance endowment.

“This is a memorial that needs to be here,” Mayor Sly James said. “Every time you pass it, whether on foot or by car, look at it and remember what happened 34 years ago in this city.”

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

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