D.C. Earthquake 2011: Inspection finds additional cracks in Washington Monument

An inspection found additional cracks in the Washington Monument caused by the historic earthquake that hit the D.C. region Tuesday, the National Park Service said Wednesday.

The inspection “uncovered additional cracks in the pyramidion, or uppermost section of the structure,” the park service said. Officials previously reported one crack that is four feet long and one inch wide.

The park service hired two engineering firms to further assess the damage to the monument, one of the based in Berkeley, Calif. The park service said both companies have extensive experience investigating damaged buildings after earthquakes. One team will arrive in D.C. Thursday to begin assessing the monument.

The park service “will do whatever it takes to ensure that (the Washington Monument) is restored completely and correctly,” said Robert A. Vogel, Superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

{ }{ }{ } { }{ }{ } Debris litters the floor inside the Washington Monument. (Photo: National Park Service)

The Herman family was snapping pictures of the White House from inside the Washington Monument when they were shaken to the core.

"It really rocked hard," Mark Herman said. “We didn't know it was an earthquake, we just thought 9/11 terrorist thing running through our mind.”

Terri Herman said debris was falling down on their heads. A chunk of stone knocked Mandy to the ground, dust poured down.

“I thought the top was going to fall right off," Mandy said.

The family rushed to reach the ground from almost 555 feet up. They had to get down through a windowless stairwell inside the shaking structure.

“I kept waiting for stuff to crumble down above us,” Terri said. “I can't believe I experienced something like this, it's just like seeing your life go before your eyes and you're gonna fall."

The earthquake forced evacuations of all the memorials and monuments on the National Mall and rattled nerves from South Carolina to Martha's Vineyard, the Massachusetts island where President Barack Obama is vacationing.

The Lincoln and Jefferson memorials were closed for a short time but then reopened. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the World War II Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and the Korean War Memorial remained open.