By Timothy Cama - 05/12/14 02:23 PM EDT
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis opened the Washington Monument to the public Monday nearly three years after it closed for repairs.
Jewell was joined by Trust for the National Mall President Caroline Cunningham and David Rubenstein, a philanthropist who donated half of the $15 million cost to repair the obelisk, in Washington, D.C.
“The enduring spirit of public and private donations throughout the history of the monument continues to live on today with its re-opening,” Jewell said, according to a statement from the Interior Department. “We invite the public to once again enjoy the unparalleled view of our nation’s capital from the top of one of the most iconic symbols of democracy in our country.”
After speaking, Jewell led a group of wounded military veterans in an elevator ride to the top of the 555-foot structure.
The monument closed immediately after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, centered in Virginia, damaged it in August 2011. Since then, workers inspected more than 20,000 stones, repaired cracks, secured loose stones, installed new steel supports and repaired the elevator, among other tasks, Interior said.
“Our staff and contractors did a fantastic job completing this important project on time and on budget,” Jarvis said in the statement.
White House adviser John Podesta was also at the opening event, as were Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).
People started waiting in line at midnight to access the monument, which opened at 1 p.m., The Washington Post reported.