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Washington Monument reopens after earthquake

Members of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps arrived for the reopening ceremony of the Washington Monument.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Members of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps arrived for the reopening ceremony of the Washington Monument.

WASHINGTON — The towering symbol that honors the nation’s first president reopened to the public Monday, nearly three years after an earthquake cracked and chipped the 130-year-old stone obelisk.

After fences were dismantled and construction equipment removed, the Washington Monument drew a cross section of Americans who wanted to be among the first to visit the reopened historic site.

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For many of them, it was their first chance to see the 555-foot-tall monument’s interior and the nation’s capital from its highest point.

‘‘I’ve seen pictures of it, but I’ve never been here to see it,’’ said Brandon Hillock, 22, from near Salt Lake City.

Engineers have spent nearly 1,000 days on an extensive analysis and restoration of what was once the tallest structure in the world. A 5.8-magnitude quake in August 2011 caused widespread damage. It shook some stones loose and caused more than 150 cracks.

From massive scaffolding built around the monument after the quake, engineers and stone masons made repairs stone by stone.

Now, new exhibits have been installed at the top, and visitors can once again ride an elevator to look out over the National Mall. The National Park Service is offering extended hours through the summer for visits. Tickets can be reserved online, and they’re already booked into June.

Kourtney Butler of Miami just graduated from Howard University, but the monument has been closed and under construction for most of her four years living in Washington.

‘‘I wanted to get a chance to see it,’’ she said. ‘‘I really like the monuments and the National Mall. I think I’ve been to all the Smithsonian museums and art exhibits. So it was the last one I hadn’t seen.’’

Kristopher Lewis of Augusta, Ga., and his wife, Mary, were visiting Washington for a conference.

‘‘I played in front of the monument when I was in the eighth-grade band, so I wanted to come back and see it,’’ Mary Lewis said.

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