May 12, 2014
The Washington Monument re-opened this morning in the nation’s capital.
A most unexpected 5.8 earthquake, centered in Louisa County, Virginia, about 100 miles southwest of Washington, gave the 555 foot-tall unreinforced masonry structure quite a jolt in late August of 2011. It had recently been renovated, the stones cleaned and minor cracks repaired. Now the work had to begin again. A metal framework rose to the top last fall and came down just a few days ago.
As the re-opening of a building of this magnitude and significance requires public ceremony, various military units and appropriate dignitaries were called upon to display their craft and say a few words in front of a crowd of several thousand gathered on the grounds southwest of the monument.
The Armed Forces Color Guard presented the colors at precisely 10 AM. The fifty flags at the base of the monument fluttered in a steady wind from the south. The US Navy Ceremonial Band played the National Anthem. Weather forecast: sunny, warm and humid, highs in the upper 80s. It must get over 90 to qualify for hot in this southern city.
As the Washington Monument is administered ultimately by the Department of the Interior, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell led the list of dignitaries, followed by Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service; John Podesta representing the President; Washington Mayor Vincent Gray and various others from the agencies that had a hand in the renovation effort, including philanthropist David Rubenstein, who wrote a personal check for $7.5 million.
Candace Glover, of American Idol fame, sang “America the Beautiful;” boy and girl choristers from the National Cathedral sang “My Country’Tis of Thee. Honor of performing last went to the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, clad in scarlet 18th Century coats, buckskin trousers, white gloves, powdered wigs and tricorner hats, led by an officer in a fur shako who brandished a wood-shafted pike topped by three gleaming spikes. They played 18th-Century tunes and displayed superb parade-ground abilities. Finally each dignitary took a giant pair of shears, made a simultaneous snip of the red, white and blue ribbon, and the Washington Monument was again open for business.
The whole ceremony took a little more than an hour. The purpose of this and all ceremonies like it is to remind those present that the republic will endure. The symbol of the nation’s founder will need to be repaired again. Dignitaries will gather, all different probably, but the soldiers will present the same colors, bands play the same tunes, singers sing the same songs. Government of the people, by the people, for the people, will not perish from the earth.