Dozens of locals and visitors — from as far as China — converged on Washington, DC, to be the first to take a tour of the newly-reopened Washington Monument. The National Park Service closed the 130-year-old monument for almost 3 years to make repairs after damage caused by a 5.8-magnitude earthquake that hit the East Coast on August 23, 2011. Since then, the historic site has been closed to the public.
Today, the monument’s box office was open; selling tickets for the first tour at 1 p.m. Public tours normally start at 9am, but a special hour-long ceremony, held this morning, pushed back the regularly scheduled tours.
Hosted by NBC’s Today Show weather anchor Al Roker, the reopening ceremony included performances by American Idol Season 12 winner Candice Glover, the US Navy Band, the Washington National Cathedral Choir.
Even President George Washington and First Lady Martha Washington – actors, of course — made a special appearance for the event. Military vets, DC Mayor Vincent Gray, National Mall & Memorial Parks Superintendent Bob Vogel, US Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and hundreds of others attended the ceremony that included a Washington Monument history lesson from local 4th graders from Aiton Elementary School.
According to the Washington Post, an estimated 1.5 million people have been deprived of making the grand tour to the top of the monument. A $15 million repair bill helped fix cracks in the 555-foot-tall obelisk. Stainless steel anchors were also added to keep the stone slabs in place in case of another earthquake.