Washington Monument reopens nearly 3 years after earthquake

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Washington Monument reopens nearly 3 years after earthquake
The Washington Monument shown on April 27, 2014. The 130-year-old obelisk honoring George Washington is reopening on Monday May 12, 2014 after repairs to damage caused by a 2011 earthquake kept it closed for nearly three years. Photo by Andrew Tavani.
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: Vernon Bivens, Electrician at The Washington Monument, changes a lightbulb in the elevator at the top of The Washington Monument. This is one of the many last minute touches being done before the monument reopens on Monday after being repaired by engineers after the earthquake in 2011. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: Flags fly outside The Washington Monument on Saturday, May 10, 2014. The Washington Monument reopens on Monday after being repaired by engineers after the earthquake in 2011. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
In this Friday, May 9, 2014 photo, workers Julio Dichis, right, and Jose Oreyana remove the fencing which closed the Washington Monument off to the public during renovations Washington. The monument, which sustained damage from an earthquake in August 2011, will re-open to the public on Monday, May 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: New exhibitions can be seen on the 490 foot level of the monument. The Washington Monument reopens on Monday after being repaired by engineers after the earthquake in 2011. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Sunrise behind the Washington Monument is seen from Arlington House in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Sunday, May 4, 2014. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
In this Saturday, May 10, 2014 photo, Bob Vogel, superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks, points out a repaired crack inside the Washington Monument during a press preview prior to the re-opening of the monument, in Washington. With more than 150 cracks patched and repaired in its white marble, the Washington Monument is set to reopen for the first time since a 2011 earthquake caused widespread damage. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
Workers remove scaffolding that surrounds the Washington Monument in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. The scaffolding was erected to allow crews to repair the monument, which was damaged in an earthquake in August 2011. It has been closed to the public ever since, and the park service hopes it will reopen in the spring. It will take about three months for the scaffolding to be gone. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Steven Avila, a Department of Interior employee, wears a Washington Monument costume as he waves at photographers at the Washington Monument in Washington, Monday, May 12, 2104, ahead of a ceremony to celebrate its re-opening. The monument, which sustained damage from an earthquake in August 2011, is reopening to the public today. Avila made the costume to show his support for the re-opening of the monument. (AP Photo)
A worker, who asked not to be named, paints the stage of the Sylvan Theater with the Washington Monument in the background, on the National Mall in Washington, Friday, May 2, 2014. The Washington Monument is scheduled to reopen May 12 after earthquake damages were repaired. For years, the mall's grounds and facilities have fallen into disrepair, even though it's is the most-visited national park. Visitors often find dead grass, broken sidewalks and fetid pools of water. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Vicki Dixon, an Interior Department employee, right, helps her colleague Steven Avila, with his Washington Monument costume at the Washington Monument in Washington, Monday, May 12, 2014, ahead of a ceremony to celebrate its re-opening. The monument, which sustained damage from an earthquake in August 2011, is reopening to the public today. Avila made the costume to show his support for the re-opening of the monument. (AP Photo)
The sun peeks through the scaffolding around the Washington Monument at dawn in Washington, Monday, March 24, 2014. The National Park Service has announced they will reopen the earthquake damaged structure in May. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
Workers Julio Dichis, left, and Jose Oreyana remove the fencing which closed the Washington Monument off to the public during renovations Washington, Friday, May 9, 2014. The monument, which sustained damage from an earthquake in August 2011, will re-open to the public on Monday, May 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The sunrises behind the scaffolding clad Washington Monument in Washington, early Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. The National Park Service has announced the decorative lighting will be turned off as work crews begin the task of removing the scaffolding from around the earthquaked damage monument. The work is scheduled to completed and the monument reopened in the spring of 2014. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps entertain Washington Monument visitors in Washington Friday, Feb. 22, 2002 during ceremonies as the towering monument reopened to the public on George Washington's 270th birthday after $10.5 million in renovations. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
ONE OF FOUR PHOTOS--U.S. Park Police officer Sgt. Mike Gallant, aboard Sgt. Major, is silhouetted against the Washington Monument in Washington Thursday, Feb. 21, 2002. The monument reopens Friday after a $10.5 million makeover to add a new X-ray machine, metal detectors and Jersey barriers. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
In this Saturday, May 10, 2014 photo, Bob Vogel, superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks, points out a repaired crack inside the Washington Monument during a press preview prior to the re-opening of the monument, in Washington. With more than 150 cracks patched and repaired in its white marble, the Washington Monument is set to reopen for the first time since a 2011 earthquake caused widespread damage. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
This Saturday, May 10, 2014 photo shows the newly repaired Washington Monument during a press preview prior to the re-opening of the monument, in Washington. With more than 150 cracks patched and repaired in its white marble, the Washington Monument is set to reopen for the first time since a 2011 earthquake caused widespread damage. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
Park Service employees stand watch as visitor Roman Tanner, center, walks away with his Washington Monument ticket, which are distributed at on a first-come basis at the Washington Monument in Washington, Monday, May 12, 2014, ahead of a ceremony to celebrate its re-opening. The monument, which sustained damage from an earthquake in August 2011, is reopening to the public today. (AP Photo)
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WASHINGTON (AP) - The towering symbol that honors the nation's first president reopened to the public Monday, nearly three years after an earthquake cracked and chipped the 130-year-old stone obelisk.

After fences were dismantled and construction equipment removed, the Washington Monument drew a cross section of Americans who wanted to be among to first visit the newly reopened historic site. For many of them, it was their first chance to see the 555-foot-tall monument's interior and the nation's capital from its highest point.

"I've seen pictures of it, but I've never been here to see it," said Brandon Hillock, 22, from near Salt Lake City, visiting after a two-year Mormon mission in Virginia. "It's really cool to come here and experience what this is all about and the history behind it."

Engineers have spent nearly 1,000 days on an extensive analysis and restoration of what was once the tallest structure in the world. A 5.8-magnitude quake in August 2011 caused widespread damage. It shook some stones loose and caused more than 150 cracks. From massive scaffolding built around the monument after the quake, engineers and stone masons made repairs stone by stone.

Now, new exhibits have been installed at the top, and visitors can once again ride an elevator to look out over the National Mall. The National Park Service is offering extended hours through the summer for daytime and evening visits. Tickets can be reserved online, but they're already booked into June.

Kourtney Butler of Miami just graduated from Howard University, but the monument has been closed and under construction for most of her four years living in Washington.

"I wanted to get a chance to see it," she said. "I really like the monuments and the national mall. I think I've been to all the Smithsonian museums and art exhibits. So it was the last one I hadn't seen."

Kristopher Lewis of Augusta, Georgia, and his wife, Mary Lewis, were visiting Washington for a conference.

"I played in front of the monument when I was in the eighth-grade band, so I wanted to come back and see it," Mary Lewis said.

For Kristopher Lewis, it was his first visit. Looking up, he said he felt patriotic.

"There's so many amazing historical sites in Washington, D.C., and just to be able to go up to the top of the monument and to look around and see all the city from that vantage point, not to mention the history of the monument itself, I think will be wonderful," he said.

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