Anniversary of Hyatt skywalk tragedy remembered by survivors

Unable to speak, Sol Koenigsberg, left, comforted his wife, Rosette, in the only way they could. They held hands while they waited three hours for an ambulance. (Image courtesy: The Kansas City Star)

Survivors of one of the deadliest structural collapses in U.S. history are still fighting to raise funds for a memorial 32 years after the Hyatt Regency Hotel skywalk collapse.

On July 17, 1981, 114 people died and 216 more were injured.

For those who survived the collapse, the sights and sounds of that night are very vivid. The images are imprinted in their minds more than three decades after the tragedy.

The survivors don't want others to forget what happened that night.

"We went out to the dance. We really like to dance. It was a lovely night," Sol Koenigsberg said.

Then, about 7 p.m., frantic 911 phone calls came in reporting the tragic event.

"We were sitting on the sidelines. The next thing we knew ... darkness, screaming and horror," Koenigsberg said.

Koenigsberg's wife, Rosette, managed to crawl out of the rubble to get him help. He was trapped.

"I was in great pain. My leg was crushed, and my back was broken in three different places. My wife went into shock," Koenigsberg said.

Unable to speak, they comforted each other in the only way they could. They held hands while they waited three hours for an ambulance.

"That is where the so-called iconic picture was taken of us lying on the asphalt holding hands," Koenigsberg said.

More than three decades later, the couple remembers the tragedy nearly every day.

"It is an intricate part of Kansas City history," Koenigsberg said.

Koenigsberg hopes to change that by fundraising for the Skywalk Memorial Foundation and raising awareness about what happened that night.

"I think there should be a memorial that emphasizes the positive. We've been trying to do that," he said.

Koenigsberg said the tragedy had a positive effect on raising the standards for construction.

The collapse was traced to a change in the original design for the walkways.

A book is being sold that chronicles the collapse. Click here for more information. Proceeds from that book go toward the memorial fund.

For more information on the Skywalk Memorial Foundation, click here.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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