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Mighty fallen
September 27, 2011 2:27 AM   Subscribe

Security camera footage shows the Washington Monument shaking during the recent earthquake.

The Washington Monument is an obelisk near the west end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. A 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit D.C., forcing engineers to rappel down to inspect the elevator, which seems damaged, closing the monument indefinitely.
posted by twoleftfeet (48 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sorry. The last link could go here instead.

I don't like it when my references change. Hear me, washingtonpost.com?
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:37 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait - you can go inside the Monument? Wish I'd known that when I was there.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:54 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many of those people running down the stairs were thinking "earthquake" and now many were thinking "terrorists."
posted by three blind mice at 3:50 AM on September 27, 2011


Wait - you can go inside the Monument? Wish I'd known that when I was there.

Oh yeah, it has an entire fallback government command facility inside just like the one behind Mt Rushmore.

Seriously, that's scary video. I doubt that thing was built with 'earthquake proof' featuring prominently in any design documents.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 3:53 AM on September 27, 2011


I wonder how many of those people running down the stairs were thinking "earthquake" and now many were thinking "terrorists."

Now we know it was our own fault.
posted by hal9k at 3:54 AM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not bad for something built in the 19th century, despite being somewhat weakened in order to install modern contrivances.
posted by Renoroc at 3:57 AM on September 27, 2011


If it fell would we mark that day as its expiration date?
posted by hal9k at 3:57 AM on September 27, 2011


I wonder how many of those people running down the stairs were thinking "earthquake" and now many were thinking "terrorists."

Earthquake: 0
Terrorists: everybody
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:59 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


If it fell would we mark that day as its expiration date?

If it fell the Republicans would thwart any effort to have it rebuilt using public funds and it would have to be renamed the CHASE Washington Memorial or something like that.

On preview: my thought exactly flapjax at midnite.
posted by three blind mice at 4:01 AM on September 27, 2011


I wonder how many of those people running down the stairs were thinking "earthquake" and now many were thinking "terrorists."


I wonder how many people were thinking, "Shit! This thing's taking off!"
posted by run"monty at 4:03 AM on September 27, 2011 [42 favorites]


You know, after 16 years in Japan I consider myself something of an old hand with earthquakes, but that security cam footage, well... that quake wasn't playing around! Thing is, it was really pretty long: when you're in a building that's shaking like that for a full fifty seconds, man, that's like an eternity. Some seriously scary shit.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:22 AM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


It actually shows the camera shaking relative to the monument, not the monument shaking.
posted by unSane at 4:37 AM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


It actually shows the camera shaking relative to the monument, not the monument shaking.

Oh, I know that, but I've seen enough of this type of security cam footage over the years here to know that that means the building is seriously shaking. And of course, you need only look at the monument's visitors: scared, scared, scared. One lady held the wall for support, as she probably felt like she could've easily fallen down.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:42 AM on September 27, 2011


The shaking I could deal with. The shit falling from the ceiling is what makes the hair on the back of my head stand up.

I like how the security guard is the first out. Can't blame her.
posted by gjc at 4:51 AM on September 27, 2011


The shaking I could deal with.

Oh yeah? Pretty damn frightening, I'm here to tell ya!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:56 AM on September 27, 2011


So it's an earthquake. Let's all go underground in a building so if it collapses, we'll be safe.
posted by stormpooper at 5:03 AM on September 27, 2011


And that's the most excitement that security guard has experienced since working there.
posted by stormpooper at 5:03 AM on September 27, 2011


security guard --- You mean the US Park Ranger.

So it's an earthquake. Let's all go underground in a building so if it collapses, we'll be safe. --- What?
posted by crunchland at 5:07 AM on September 27, 2011


STEEL DOESNT MOVE LIKE THAT WAKE UP SHEEPLE
posted by odinsdream at 5:17 AM on September 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Most buildings east of the Mississippi aren't hurricane-resistant let alone earthquake-resistant. And let's not even mention tornadoes. As I told a friend who's planning on a career in emergency management, despite the hype the real danger facing us isn't terrorism, it's natural disasters. Our infrastructure is barely surviving as it is, it doesn't take much to tip the scales.
posted by tommasz at 5:17 AM on September 27, 2011


I would not want to be high up in the tallest stone building in the world when the earth started shaking and the ceiling started crumbling and falling.
posted by pracowity at 5:26 AM on September 27, 2011


Monument goes left, monument goes right. You can't explain that.
posted by punkfloyd at 5:28 AM on September 27, 2011


I'm guessing that, early on in the video (.26) , those brown globs that appear in front of the camera lens are dead bugs being shaken around in the camera enclosure. They need to do some serious cleaning in there.
posted by HuronBob at 5:33 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many of those people running down the stairs were thinking "earthquake" and now many were thinking "terrorists."

I wonder how many people were thinking, "Shit! This thing's taking off!"


I wonder how many people were thinking it was the Rapture. "Oh Lord, Jesus Washington is bringin' us home to you for a Tea Party in the sky!"
posted by gompa at 5:42 AM on September 27, 2011


So you're going down the stairs and there's an 85 year old woman creeping along slowly in front of you. As you're wondering how she got up this high in the first place, everything around you starts to shake. There's a line of people behind you, and this old lady just can't move any faster. Here's the question: do you ask her if you can carry her, or do you just pick her up without saying anything?
posted by jwhite1979 at 5:50 AM on September 27, 2011


So you're going down the stairs and there's an 85 year old woman creeping along slowly in front of you. As you're wondering how she got up this high in the first place, everything around you starts to shake. There's a line of people behind you, and this old lady just can't move any faster. Here's the question: do you ask her if you can carry her, or do you just pick her up without saying anything?

Shoot the hostage.

Wait, lemme think on this..
posted by FatherDagon at 5:59 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


STEEL DOESNT MOVE LIKE THAT WAKE UP SHEEPLE

Obviously pre-placed shaped charges. I can't believe there's even any serious discussion about "the earth moving." Like that happens! Google conspiratruthitivity.netcom for the TRUTH!
posted by rusty at 6:17 AM on September 27, 2011


As you're wondering how she got up this high in the first place

I would assume she took the elevator like I (and everybody else) did :)

But seriously, I hope they fix it. Going to the top on a nice day is a pretty neat experience, great views of the other monuments and DC in general.
posted by inigo2 at 6:35 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if there were any Fallout 3 players in the Monument. I wonder how many of them thought "oh shit it has begun".
posted by hat_eater at 6:40 AM on September 27, 2011


I thought they didn't let you up into the top anymore? Or am I just thinking of the Statue of Liberty?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:40 AM on September 27, 2011


I'm assuming the first part of the footage is from the top, but where is the second part from?
posted by Big_B at 6:46 AM on September 27, 2011


Also from the top: different view.
posted by apartment dweller at 6:48 AM on September 27, 2011


I love the bit about how the most bad ass dude (or dudette?) capable of leading the effort to rappel down the monument to inspect for damage has to be shipped out from the national parks in Alaska.
posted by cavalier at 6:55 AM on September 27, 2011


If it fell the Republicans would thwart any effort to have it rebuilt using public funds and it would have to be renamed the CHASE Washington Memorial or something like that.

You know this was my first thought this morning reading this story. It is going to be expen$ive to fix this thing and it will take years. If congress can't avert a government shutdown over funding FEMA (in the middle of hurricane season!) it is easy for me to imagine the Washington Monument closed forever, a crumbling symbol of a failed state.

If there isn't an image of a toppled over Washington Monument in Idiocracy, there should have been.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:56 AM on September 27, 2011


I would assume she took the elevator like I (and everybody else) did :)

Ah yes. Elevators. I live so far in the middle of nowhere that I tend to forget these things exist. You know what I haven't seen in about ten years? An escalator. I think it's time to make a weekend excursion to a two-story mall.
posted by jwhite1979 at 7:27 AM on September 27, 2011


So it's an earthquake. Let's all go underground in a building so if it collapses, we'll be safe. --- What?


My point exactly. Building collapses, they're screwed. I was being sarcastic.
posted by stormpooper at 7:54 AM on September 27, 2011


If there isn't an image of a toppled over Washington Monument in Idiocracy, there should have been.

There is in Mars Attacks, which is the prequel.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:55 AM on September 27, 2011


Live video of the rappel inspection, from the Washington Post (after the ad, of course).
posted by postel's law at 8:03 AM on September 27, 2011


The Washington Monument is the world's tallest stone/masonry structure (the absolute worst kind for earthquakes), was designed in the 1830s and completed in 1884 without the supervision of the original architect (who was dead by that point), and has the shape and resonant properties of a guitar string.

It's a small wonder that the thing is still standing after being hit by a fairly significant quake, and only suffered moderate damage.

You know this was my first thought this morning reading this story. It is going to be expen$ive to fix this thing and it will take years. If congress can't avert a government shutdown over funding FEMA (in the middle of hurricane season!) it is easy for me to imagine the Washington Monument closed forever, a crumbling symbol of a failed state.

Maybe it's a symbol that we, as a country, have more important things to worry about than monuments and architecture? Yeah, I like pretty things too, but your choice of the Washington Monument here is a curious one.

For starters, the monument's original design looks nothing like the final product.

Construction was started in 1848, and came to a halt in 1854 when money ran out. Congress appropriated money to continue the construction, but later reneged on the promise, because individual states and donors had been asked to make contributions themselves, which was abused by various political groups seeking to have their screeds permanently inscribed into the monument. Eventually, the proto-tea-party "Know Nothings" abused this system so extensively that they took control of the society responsible for the monument's construction, and added several more rows of stone that were of such poor quality that they eventually had to be removed. Given that nobody wanted to work with the Know Nothings, construction gradually ground to a halt.

Eventually, a bunch of Americans decided that it was important to be able to own black people, and that killing half a million people was the right way to settle that argument. Naturally, construction of the monument was not a priority during the Civil War, and construction was halted for another 20 years.

By the time the country was in a position to resume construction, the Italianite architecture of the original design had fallen out of favor, and solicited five new designs for the monument, eventually selecting the fairly simplistic one that we know and love today.

By this point, congress was also functioning fairly effectively, and sufficient funds were appropriated to complete the remaining 75% of construction in just 4 years.

The discussion of the grounds surrounding the monument has also been a source of much controversy. No plan was ever adopted, and the land surrounding the monument remains a bare plot of land with virtually no landscaping, (although a few retaining walls were tastefully added in 2004 in the post-9/11 security panic). The McMillan Plan, proposed in 1902, inspired by the City Beautiful movement created the National Mall as we currently know it, and suggested a grand plaza to link the mall's four quadrants centered around the monument. The mall was created, and a significant portion of the plan was implemented and built, although an agreement could never be reached about the portions around the Washington Monument, and eventually World War I halted any further implementation of the plan, leaving us largely where we are today.

To this day, many consider this area of the mall to be "unfinished," and routinely speculate about how to improve and finish it.

Unfortunately, the National Park Service have been doing an absolutely piss-poor job of maintaining the National Mall, in many cases making changes for the worse rather than for the better ("How can we cram more tour buses in front of the Lincoln Memorial" should not be a priority for the Park Service, and yet accommodating additional vehicular traffic seems to be the only thing that the NPS cares about, while the mall's memorials, grounds, and structures all crumble, and bizarre concession contracts with large corporations prevent any modern amenities from being included on or near the mall*) *Actually, there's no legal language stating that the concession contracts are actually exclusive, although the NPS continually asserts that they are -- it's a recurring theme for the NPS to make up their own rules up as they go along. After the uproar about the shitty Tourmobile concession, the NPS terminated that contract 3 months early without soliciting a replacement, effectively eliminating public transport on the mall, and putting several hundred people out of work. Like I said. Truly bizarre.

So, yeah. The Washington Monument, if anything, is a better representation of our country's ills and failures than it is of its successes. It's a small miracle that it got built at all.
posted by schmod at 8:38 AM on September 27, 2011 [14 favorites]


I saw this on the news last night. I was in a bar, so I was reading the closed captioning, rather than hearing what the anchor was actually saying, but it seemed like we were expected to be way more alarmed by the fact the Washington Monument would sway in an earthquake than any reasonable person would be. It's a rather large phallic object that wasn't built with earthquakes in mind.

Anyone know if it sways in the wind? My guess is not, though the Sears Tower does, but that's way taller.
posted by hoyland at 8:38 AM on September 27, 2011


The Tour-mobile is shutting down at the end of October after they were told their concession would not be renewed.
posted by humanfont at 9:00 AM on September 27, 2011


As the official homo Bromo majordomo, I'm charged with overseeing the well-being of the historic 1911 Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower in Baltimore, and of all the days to be out, I'd called out that day because of a pinched nerve that had me knotted up in a big ball of agony. The quake shook the hell out of my apartment building (where I'm also the building super), and I threw the dogs out onto the porch, did a quick run through of the place to make sure the cribbing under my apartment hadn't slipped, then got on the cell phone to try and get through to Bromo.

Except—there was no cell service in my area, or in big swaths of Baltimore, where everyone apparently ran out of their safe buildings to stand in the street under wobbly old cornices that were already dangling frighteningly over the sidewalks, so I ended up in this crazy relay texting operation coupled with tapping into all the city's webcams, trying to get the building evacuated and properly shut down while I was trapped at home and strung out on painkillers that made the prospect of a quick ride into town a very ball call.

Fortunately, it was the second earthquake during my tenure, the first being about a year earlier, at 5 AM and centered in Gaithersburg, so I'd had to check on my facilities in a similar circumstance. I was able to communicate with my artists at the Tower, walked them through the process of locking the place down and parking the elevators on their lowest floors, and otherwise managed to get the place under control from a distance, though it helps a lot that they're all sensible people who didn't engage in the pushing and line-butting you see in the video.

Going back through my security camera video, I was very pleased with how my tenants responded, right down to the fact that they left the building and regrouped at the official regrouping place. I sort of wished I had more cameras, though, and specifically elevator cameras, because my modernized car was apparently really banging around on its guide rails. When I went in the next day to do a walkthrough with my most recent structural issues checklist, I was happy to find no damage, largely because Bromo is a product of twentieth century engineering, with a steel frame clad in masonry, rather than the all-stone structure of its inspiration, the Palazzo Vecchio, which wouldn't have fared nearly so well.

I really felt for the staff and devoted facility managers at the National Cathedral that day, and I'd hate to be dealing with the aftermath at the Washington Monument, which is a nightmare for facility managers in being both fragile and very, very conspicuous. As someone responsible for city landmarks (my second one now, since the American Visionary Art Museum), it's tough sometimes, especially when budgets aren't always what they should be and you're managing the expectations of visitors for whom your job is completely invisible, except when something goes wrong.

Fortunately, I have a very good case now for funding my project of setting up remote access for all of my monitoring gear, from my alarms and cameras to my security systems and electronically controlled locking systems. Since my Tower and the 121 year-old former school building on my watch are both 24/7/365/101% on-call responsibilities, it's nice to be able to go back and review.

Another day, another project. I will never have to endure boredom again.
posted by sonascope at 9:31 AM on September 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


I like how the security guard is the first out. Can't blame her.

It was explained in one of the articles that it's protocol when there are a pair of park rangers on duty in the Washington Monument, for one to lead the visitors out of the facility, opening locked security doors if necessary and making sure the path is safe, and the second to take the rear, making sure everyone has gotten out.
posted by aught at 9:47 AM on September 27, 2011


My point exactly. Building collapses, they're screwed. I was being sarcastic. --- They're not going underground. They're on the top of a tower, 500 feet about the ground. You expected them to ride it out and hope for the best then?
posted by crunchland at 9:50 AM on September 27, 2011


I grew up outside of D.C., but I've also lived in California. If I had been at the top of the Washington Monument at that moment, the thing that would have gone through my mind would have been the words "unreinforced masonry structure." And I would have been pretty sure that the next thing to go through my mind was going to be some of that unreinforced masonry structure.
posted by jocelmeow at 1:48 PM on September 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's a symbol that we, as a country, have more important things to worry about than monuments and architecture? Yeah, I like pretty things too, but your choice of the Washington Monument here is a curious one.

I don't disagree, just that it's a pretty bold reminder of what this country used to be and what it now is. "Failed state" is certainly too strong a term.

20 years ago, it would have been inconceivable that we lacked the organization, political will, and capital to let one of the most famous, visible national symbols sit crumbling, now it seems entirely likely.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:25 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone know if it sways in the wind? My guess is not, though the Sears Tower does, but that's way taller.

A little. From the Wikipedia page:

•  Sway of monument in 30-mile-per-hour (48 km/h) wind: 0.125 inches (3.2 mm)

According to this Mefi comment and linked article in a thread from 2008, Willis [Sears] Tower sway is in the 8 inch range in a 60 mph gust, but in a hurricane force wind the structure is rated to sway as much as 3 feet.
posted by aught at 8:23 AM on September 28, 2011


Daredevil Washington Monument Inspection Starts.
posted by crunchland at 1:55 PM on September 28, 2011


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