(Adds color from tourists, quote from interior secretary)
By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON May 12 The Washington Monument, long
a symbol of the U.S. capital, reopened on Monday to speeches,
songs and fanfare after being closed for almost three years to
repair earthquake damage.
The 555-foot-high (170-meter) marble and granite obelisk,
the tallest stone structure in the world, was praised by
speakers at a ceremony as an enduring symbol of U.S. ideals.
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and billionaire
philanthropist David Rubenstein, who paid for half of the $15
million in repairs, were among the dignitaries who cut a ribbon
at the reopening.
"We invite the public to once again enjoy the unparalleled
view of our nation's capital from the top of one of the most
iconic symbols of democracy in our country," Jewell told an
applauding crowd of several hundred people on the monument
The monument, the tallest structure in Washington, suffered
cracks, loosened stones and lost mortar when it was whipsawed by
a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in August 2011.
The temblor sent terrified tourists fleeing from the
observation deck 500 feet up, and opened cracks so wide that
light shined through.
After engineers rappelled from the top of the monument to
inspect the damage, the structure was shrouded in scaffolding
for months as workers carried out repairs.
The job included 665 feet of crack repairs, almost three
miles (5 km) of repointing mortar joints, hundreds of mortar
patches and 52 stainless steel anchors, some of them visible
from the observation deck.
Public tours of the monument to George Washington, the first
U.S. president, resumed after the ceremony. People started to
line up for tickets at 1:30 a.m. EDT and 600 tickets were
snapped up in the hour after the 8:30 a.m. opening.
The reopening ceremony was emceed by television personality
Al Roker and included "American Idol" winner Candice Glover
singing "America the Beautiful," the Army's Old Guard Fife and
Drum Corps, the Navy Band and a children's choir.
The monument reopened to the public at 1 p.m., when about
nine tourists took the 70-second elevator trip to the
"It's magnificent, it's worth the wait, and it's nice to be
part of history," said Joe Vizzini, a 72-year-old hair salon
owner from Boca Raton, Florida, as he admired the 30-mile view.
The monument was completed in 1884 and draws about 600,000
visitors a year.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by G Crosse, Barbara
Goldberg and Nick Zieminski)