Washington Monument Daredevils Remove Chunks of Marble

Engineers have resumed a daredevil exterior inspection of the Washington Monument to look for damage caused by last month's earthquake.

Dan Lemieux, manager of the monument project, said team members pulled off two dictionary-sized chunks of marble from the top of the monument that were loosened by the quake. The pieces weighed more than 10 pounds and were larger than what the team expected to remove from the structure, he said, noting that visitors would have been endangered if a chunk that big fell.

Team members began climbing out of the windows of the monument about 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

During the inspection, the climbers will work their way up and down the sides of the monument, snap photos with a digital camera and tap the stones with a soft mallet to listen for indications of damage. The work is expected to last several days.

One of the engineers, Emma Cardini, 32, said Thursday that the job is the highlight of her career. She said she got the opportunity to learn how to climb up and down buildings several years ago and loves it.

Cardini said she became hooked on the line of work after her first climb of the Bank of America building in Providence, R.I., six years ago. The Melrose, Mass., resident said that working on
the Washington Monument is by far the most exciting job she's had so far, and that she appreciates the view from the monument's observation deck.

"It's really cool to see the planes flying under you,'' she said.

But Cardini said she doesn't do any sightseeing once she gets out onto the monument.

"The only thing I'm looking at is the stone in front of me,'' she said.

Cardini said she receives annual training with her company -- the engineering firm Wiss, Janey, Elstner Associates Inc. of Northbrook, Ill. -- as well as with the Society of Professional Rope
Access Technicians. She also recently completed a training course for international certification.

So far she's rappelled down columns on Panama's Bridge of the Americas, dangled from rope inside the Old South Church in Boston and inspected the Gothic spires at the top of Chicago's Tribune Tower.

"There must be something wrong with my inner ear,'' she said, explaining that she has no fear of heights.

She said she and the team were impressed with the original construction of the Washington Monument, which was built between 1848 and 1884.

"For an engineer," she said, "it's like Disney World.''

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