This is a year of going up things. After multiple visits to St. Louis and Seattle in the past, I finally rode to the tops of the Gateway Arch and the Space Needle in 2010. I had been to the top of the Washington Monument before, but it was years ago during Hands Across America. My friend Bean and I had to submit our Social Security Numbers in advance so we could broadcast from the top of the Monument. The precautions were needed because the windows were open to give TV cameras a clear view of the hand-holding participants. It also gave us an unobstructed view of the White House.
While I was headed to the Pentagon on Thursday morning, my son went to the Washington Monument Lodge to request a pair of tickets. He got the last two tickets for 2:00 p.m., which would allow time for me to meet him for lunch beforehand. It also got us in and out of the Monument before some severe storms hit the area. The views in all directions were spectacular. I thought it looked like the Eisenhower Executive Office Building had sold sponsorship of its lawn to One A Day multivitamins. We also had a good view of the construction site of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial that is supposed to be finished in 2011.
Members of a family also in the 2:00 p.m. group asked me if the monument was a pyramid. No, it’s an obelisk, I said. Then they asked why the marble changed color part of the way up. I knew that construction had halted around the time of the Civil War but didn’t know that the story involved an anti-Catholic group called the “Know Nothings.” In 1854 they destroyed a stone donated by the Vatican. The following year they got control of the Monument Society and construction halted. If they were still around, they would probably hate that I photographed the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception from the window of the Washington Monument.