WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of an earthquake that caused millions of dollars in damage to some of the District’s top tourist destinations, including the National Cathedral.
The Cathedral launched a $20 million fundraising campaign to rebuild the quake-damaged structure. The Lilly Endowment gave a needed boost of $5 million and there is a $100,000 effort underway that expires at midnight on Aug. 23.
“The amount of a donation makes a difference to the structure,” Rev. Dr. Frank Wade of the Washington National Cathedral says. “The number of donors makes a difference to the spirit of this place. So every gift is valuable.”
Wade believes the large donation from the Lilly Endowment is wonderful. However, it’s the spirit of community giving that gives the Cathedral its life.
“If we had one major donor who said, ‘I’ve got a gazillion dollars and I want to build you a cathedral,’ we would have a wonderful cathedral but we would have no heart,” he adds. “The heart comes from a number of donors.”
In a rare mid-week bell ringing, Washingtonians heard “Amazing Grace” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” followed by the peal of hand-pulled bells for more than ten minutes to mark the hour in which the quake shook the Cathedral one year earlier.
Rev. Wade, members of the press and Cathedral staff took elevators rides to one level, then climbed more than 220 winding steps, and up two levels of scaffolding to reach the damaged pinnacles.
“Everything is made by hand at the Cathedral,” Wade explained. “You can’t just order from Gargoyles-R-Us.”
The Cathedral stands 300 feet high and is situated on the largest hill in the city.
Ducking under metal bars and walking on wood-planked scaffolding around the damaged stones, it’s nerve-wracking enough to forget to take in the view, which is a complete, unobstructed, and unparalleled panorama of Washington.
Two masons righted the first of hundreds of damaged stone carvings atop the pinnacles to applause and a handshake.
Joe Alonso, Head Stone Mason at the Cathedral, wiped sweat from his brow as he spoke enthusiastically to reporters.
“It’s amazing to think a year ago that this two and a half ton piece fell and sheered off all of that,” he remarked. “It is great to start putting a piece back. There are hundreds and hundreds of pieces like that, much bigger than that, yet to go.”
The moment was equally emotional for Dr. Wade who was reminded of how fragile the world can be.
“It took just under a century to get the pinnacles on top of this Cathedral,” Wade said. “It took just under a minute to bring some of them down.”
WNEW’s Kimberly Suiters contributed to this report. Follow her on Twitter at @KimberlySuiters.