Melania Trump participates in reopening of Washington Monument

2011 earthquake damage repaired

By Kate Bennett, CNN
Getty Images via CNN

First lady Melania Trump, flanked by fourth graders from Amidon-Bowen Elementary school, participates in the reopening of the Washington Monument on the National Mall on Sept. 19, 2019, in Washington, DC.

(CNN) - First lady Melania Trump, alongside a group of local fourth graders, helped cut the ribbon to reopen the Washington Monument, which had been under construction in the wake of a 2011 earthquake.

When it first opened to the public in 1888, it used to take more than 10 minutes to reach the top of the 500-foot Washington Monument, by steam-propelled elevator. Today, it's automated, and the ride in a posh new lift with video screens is just 70 seconds.

That's just one of the upgrades Trump helped celebrate Thursday morning as she served as special guest to officially reopen the iconic structure after more than two years of closure for much-needed renovations.

The monument was badly damaged in a 2011 earthquake and in the years after, the structure was plagued with challenges. A full closure in 2016 meant the building, which is the world's tallest, free-standing masonry structure, would finally get modern touches, including a more technologically advanced visitor center.

The first lady was invited to help ceremonially reopen the monument by cutting a ribbon with Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, a White House official told CNN. Trump also made a ceremonial "first ride" to the top where she met with local students as the first public visitors to the newly reopened monument.

She did not make public remarks at the event.

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