WASHINGTON D.C. (CBS).– Surrounded by eager school children, first lady Melania Trump formally reopened the Washington Monument on Thursday after more than three years of renovations. Following a brief scissor malfunction, the first lady celebrated the monument’s reopening with a group of fourth-graders from Amidon Bowen Elementary School by cutting a red, white and blue ribbon marking the occasion.
She then took a ceremonial “first ride” up to the top on the newly modernized elevator inside the structure, part of the $15 million restoration project.
The monument was closed for most of the last eight years because of earthquake damage and extensive elevator repairs. As part of the renovations, the monument has also received a brand new glass-encased visitor screening facility.
During their visit, students received “Every Kid in the Outdoors” park passes from the first lady. Authorized for the next seven years, the new program allows fourth-grade students to get a free annual pass to visit more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges, marine sanctuaries, and forests, with their families, classmates and friends.
The monument was damaged in a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in 2011, sending rocks raining down on visitors in the observation deck. It reopened in 2014 but was closed again in 2016 after an elevator cable snapped.