A Scramble to the Top

By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 2, 2005

Just after 6 a.m. yesterday, as his wife and two children slept, Bill Marshall slipped out of their downtown hotel and went to the Washington Monument.

Good thing he was early. Tickets for the monument's reopening, six months after it was shut for security upgrades, were gone 45 minutes after they became available.

"She wanted to see it," the Pleasant Hill, Calif., resident said a few hours later, nodding at his wife, Rhonda, as the family waited to go inside.

If Marshall expected a reward for sacrificing a morning of sleep, his wife held her thumb close to her index finger to indicate that she wasn't promising anything more than a "small trophy."

"Hey, it's our last day in Washington," she said. "We're not getting cherry blossoms. At least we're getting into the Washington Monument."

By mid-afternoon, about 1,300 people had traveled the elevator to the top of the 555-foot-tall monument, where they gazed out at panoramic views of the White House, the Capitol, and the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.

Hundreds were turned away because tickets were gone.

"Interest in the Washington Monument has been higher than sky-high," said Bill Line, a spokesman for the National Park Service.

By 7:30 a.m., he said, 300 to 400 people had lined up at the ticket kiosk. A sign listed items visitors are not allowed to bring inside, including guns, suitcases, animals and baby strollers.

Line described the reopening as "uneventful."

Although visitors are allowed inside the monument, the 55-acre grounds remain off-limits to the public because workers are completing landscaping and the vehicle barricades that will ring the site. The grounds are to reopen in late June, Line said.

At the top of the monument, only four of the eight windows were cleared for looking out at the capital. The others have been blocked since the start of the Iraq war, when surveillance cameras were installed.

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