Fourth-graders from Washington D.C.’s Amidon-Bowen Elementary School participated in the re-opening ceremony Thursday.
First Lady Melania Trump joined Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to cut the ribbon after exchanging high-fives with the students, who squealed in delight at a chance to meet the elegant First Lady.
“I gave her a hug and she gave us these cards,” 9-year-old William beamed. He says he’s never going to wash those clothes again. The cards that the students were given are passes to the “Every Kid Outdoors” program that lets “students, their families and friends to visit more than 2,000 federal recreation areas.”
Secretary Bernhardt welcomed the students to the monument to Revolutionary General and First President George Washington by handing out oversize pairs of scissors to part the festive red, white, and blue ribbon.
Melania Trump had some technical difficulty with her scissors but the ribbon was ceremonially sliced and chunks of ribbon were left for once in a lifetime souvenirs. After the ribbon cutting, Mrs. Trump took a ride up the elevator to the top of the 555-foot tower.
The aged structure had been damaged in a 2011 earthquake and was shut down totally in August of 2016 after an elevator cable snapped. The entire elevator system was replaced and along with fixing the structural cracks, upgrades were made in security and screening.
On the exterior, a lighting upgrade makes for a spectacular night time display.
Shutting the monument down was a tough decision, the superintendent of the National Mall and memorial parks explains. “You obviously never want to close an icon like this to the public,” notes Jeffrey Reinbold. ” so we would Band-Aid it for years, and that was a very difficult decision that was made three years ago to shut it down and do it correctly.”
Once they reached the observation deck, Reinbold pointed out the spectacular view of her current home. The White House sits just to the north of the monument. The capitol building is another spectacular view from the top of the obelisk.
The cornerstone for the monument was put in place in 1848. Construction was interrupted by the civil war and the surrounding land was used to graze cattle. In 1876, Congress came up with $2 million and completed the original construction. By then, workers were forced to use a different batch of stone which is why the monument has a “two-tone” look. Construction was finally finished in 1884 but it wasn’t opened to the public for another four years, in 1888.
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