Washington Monument Re-Opening Draws Huge Crowds

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Three years after being damaged when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the nation's capital, the Washington Monument re-opened to the public Monday.

A drum and fife corps reminiscent of President George Washington's era took part in the re-opening ceremony of one of America's most famous landmarks.
    
"Today we again welcome visitors to this iconic symbol in the nation's capital," Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, told those gathered for the event.

In August 2011, the powerful temblor rattled the monument, sending panicked tourists racing down its stairwell.

The Virginia-centered quake, which made its presence felt up and down the East Coast, caused the landmark to crack in 150 places.
    
Afterwards, crews went to work, using scaffolding fitted with a giant elevator to tackle the tricky task of making repairs to the 555-foot tall structure.

"During full production we probably had 30-plus guys hanging from swings," project manager Shane Flynn recalled.

Engineers had to insure the 36,000 stacked stones -- three different types of marble fitted on top of each other without mortar -- were structurally sound.

"The dilemma is getting 500 feet in the air and erecting scaffolding and getting to the point where you have to make the repairs," James Perry, the National Park Service's chief of resource management for the National Mall and Memorial, explained.

The restoration of the Washington Monument cost $15 million. Taxpayers paid half, and philanthropist David Rubenstein paid the other 50 percent.

"I just think I got very lucky in my life and I want to give back," Rubenstein said.
    
The monument has typically received 700,000 visitors every year. After opening up for tickets, a National Parks Service spokesperson said they sold 16,000 in the first 15 minutes.

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