The Washington Monument reopened Monday morning, nearly three years after an earthquake shook the nation’s capital, cracking the monument and forcing renovations .
“Our Washington Monument is back!” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said at the ceremony. The $15 million restoration repaired 150 cracks in the monument that resulted from the August 2011 earthquake.
Holmes joined other dignitaries, members of the Obama administration and wounded veterans and tourists at the event hosted by Al Roker of "The Today Show."
“These kinds of repairs, doing it on time, on budget doesn’t happen very easily; it happens because of a lot of people working together as a team,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, adding that one of the key members of that team was “patriotic philanthropist” David Rubenstein.
Rubenstein donated $7.5 million of his own money to the monument restoration, matching government funding for the project.
The philanthropist told the crowd that his donation was “a down payment on my obligation to repay the country for what it has done for me and for my family.”
White House counselor John Podesta also attended the ceremony on behalf of the president and said the monument is “the defining feature of the Washington skyline,” adding that his first government job was with the National Park Service in Northern Virginia.
Other speakers included Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall; Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks; National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, who once served as a ranger at the Washington Monument; and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, who declared Monday "Reopening of the Washington Monument Day."
The ceremony was complete with patriotic pomp and circumstance, with music provided by the U.S. Navy Band, the Army's Old Guard Fife and Drum Crops, the Boy and Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral Choir and "American Idol" winner Candice Glover.
Students from Aiton Elementary School in Northeast D.C. also participated in the event, reciting historical facts about the monument.
Following the ceremony, wounded veterans were among the first to tour the restored obelisk. Public tours began at 1 p.m. Monday.
To take a tour of the restored monument, visitors can reserve advance tickets by phone or pick up timed tickets on the morning of their visit.