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CNN Today

Washington Monument Reopens its Doors to Tourists

Aired July 31, 2000 - 2:19 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The biggest thing in Washington, or at least the tallest, is once again open for business. Months of renovations are finished at the Washington Monument and the doors are open.

But CNN's Martin Savidge reports it's not quite as easy as it was to go inside.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you restore it, they will come. And they did, patiently standing hours in line to reclaim the Washington Monument after three years and $10 million of restoration. It's been 18 months since the last tourist stepped inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife got here about 6:30 this morning, so -- and we came out at 8:00.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't get to see this monument every day, and I really want to see it.

SAVIDGE: Once shrouded in scaffolding, workers cleaned every inch of its 555 feet, occasionally replacing damaged stone with new granite from the same quarries used by masons over 150 years ago.

Now it stands unencumbered and in many people's minds unparalleled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Inside that white tent is the security checkpoint you have to go through.

SAVIDGE: The biggest change for tourists is tighter security. They must now pass through a gauntlet of metal detectors, fences and barricades. The procedures are expected to cut the number of visitors inside from a peak of 4,000 to just over 2,000 a day.

Five hundred feet up, the observation level is roomier, brighter and cooler, the windows are slightly larger, allowing more heads to squeeze in for the view.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was awesome.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was incredible. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was an incredible view.

SAVIDGE: Ironically, the monument will have to close its doors once more in December to install new glass doors on the elevator, a project expected to take four months.

But that's then. For now, for most, it's a time to celebrate the return of a monument they believe towers above the rest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And to be here on such a -- such a big day, it's really -- it makes it even more special.

VIKKI KEYS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: A few "wows," and, you know, "Mommy, come look at this, come look at this." I think that their favorites are the observation window.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it was really cool.

SAVIDGE: The Washington Monument has stood the test of time, first opening to the public in 1888. Whether the tourists can withstand the time in line remains to be seen.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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