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Archive for Monday, July 16, 2007

Hyatt disater memorial in works

July 16, 2007

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— Four of them lost loved ones when skywalks at the Hyatt Regency Hotel collapsed during a crowded tea dance 26 years ago. Another was the first emergency worker at the scene of the disaster.

They believe a memorial to the 114 killed, the 216 injured - and those who responded to help - is long overdue.

But the five, who have formed the Skywalk Memorial Foundation Inc., want the public to help establish a vision for the memorial.

"We want to let them know that our goal here, really, is a fairly simple one," said Brent Hiatt, a Kansas City attorney whose mother, Karen Jeter, died in the collapse. "We'd like to have a memorial of some kind. We haven't decided what it would be, where it would be, exactly what the specifics would be. And because we don't have those questions answered yet, we'd like some input from other people."

The group has joined with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, an architectural firm and a law firm as it moves forward on the memorial project.

Tuesday marks the 25th anniversary of the disaster.

Public involvement is important because so many people knew victims of the collapse, said Heather McMichael, a spokeswoman for the Thomson & Kilroy law firm that is advising the foundation.

"This cut across the community in so many walks of life," she said.

Foundation board member John E. Sullivan, an attorney from Dallas, lost his mother, Kathryn Ann Sullivan.

Another member, Frank Freeman, was injured and his partner, Roger Grigsby, died. Board member David Chavez lost two relatives, Connie Alcala and Dolores Carmona.

Vincent Ortega, a retired Kansas City police officer who was the first one dispatched to the hotel, is the fifth member.

Officials at Hyatt and at its ownership group, Crown Center Redevelopment Corp., have said that while a memorial might be a painful reminder of the tragedy, they do not necessarily oppose one.

The group is not rushing to complete a memorial, Sullivan said.

"We're taking a very careful approach, as I think needs to be taken," he said, "given the enormity of the thing."

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