- The Washington Times
Thursday, September 19, 2019

Some visitors have reported having a spiritual experience at the top of the Washington Monument, but none more spiritual than that of a Utah book club whose members had just finished reading about the first president before the obelisk’s reopening Thursday.

“I love that [the monument] points heavenward, and it reminds us that we really are one nation, under God, and that God is watching over us,” said Rachelle Lynch, 47, whose book club members were among the first visitors to ascend the monument’s newly refurbished elevator.

Mrs. Lynch and her three literary companions took turns waiting in line to get tickets for the 70-second ride to the top — a journey secured by three years of repair work and a $3 million donation from philanthropist David Rubenstein.

“We just read the book ‘[The] Washington Hypothesis.’ It talks a lot about how Gen. George Washington is just an amazing man of God, who trusted in God and led this country to so much greatness,” Mrs. Lynch said.

First lady Melania Trump kicked off the monument’s reopening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, National Mall and Memorial Parks Superintendent Jeff Reinbold and fourth-graders from Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in Southwest Washington, among others.

For the elevator’s inaugural trip, Mrs. Trump rode with the schoolchildren to the top of the 555-foot-tall Washington Monument.

The monument’s ticket office opened at 8:30 a.m. and distributed all 760 elevator tickets within a couple of hours.

Many had been waiting in line for tickets long before the sun rose over the National Mall. The first and second people in the line — Steven Dix of Wichita, Kansas, and Angela Williams of the District of Columbia — arrived at 3:30 a.m. and quickly became “great friends.”

“These ladies showed up and it turned out to be a party after a while. It was a real party atmosphere,” Mr. Dix said of Mrs. Williams and her stepdaughters, who were visiting from India.

Mr. Dix, 59, said he rescheduled his flight home once he learned that the monument was reopening.

“I wasn’t going to leave without going up there,” he said.

Mrs. Williams, 65, said she recently retired as a cultural affairs officer in the Foreign Service. After helping to bring international visitors to the country, she thought it was time she “had a taste of America,” she said.

“I wanted my two stepdaughters to make sure they had the chance to see some of the beauties of America and why it’s so important to me and my work,” she said.

Frank Dennison, 67, was third in line when he arrived at 5:25 a.m. to get tickets for his wife and their 9-year-old grandson. He described the atmosphere as “convivial.”

“I am really looking forward to the expression of joy and exuberance on [my grandson’s] face when we get to the top and he looks out the window,” said Mr. Dennison, who traveled from Austin, Texas, to visit the monument.

Elevator tickets are available daily only at the monument until Oct. 18. Beginning Oct. 10, visitors can reserve tickets online for months in advance.

For most of the past eight years, the Washington Monument was closed intermittently. An August 2011 earthquake cracked the stones near the top and damaged the elevator, which was frequently out of order.

“A trip to the top of the Washington Monument should be on everyone’s bucket list,” said Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Park Service. “And now with this new elevator, completely state of the art, we can say with confidence, for the foreseeable future, that the Washington Monument is open for business.”

In addition to the repaired elevator, the monument’s new $12 million security structure features air conditioning and heating, and requires fewer police staff, park service personnel said. To enter the monument, visitors first must go through metal detectors and an X-ray machine, and are prohibited from bringing food, drinks, strollers, animals or large bags.

The last time Robert Harrison of Arlington, Virginia, visited the top of the Washington Monument was in the 1960s when he was a child. He remembered having to take the stairs all the way.

“I remember it being more like an attic,” Mr. Harrison, 65, said of the observation deck at the top.

Mrs. Lynch, of the Utah book club, said she admires the monument’s symbolism, specifically the many phases of construction. Construction on the monument began in 1848 and took nearly 40 years to complete.

“I love the fact that you work to create something, and sometimes things come along that tear it apart and then you keep going, you mend the ties and keep going,” she said. “It’s super symbolic that way.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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