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National Cathedral Repairs Begin On Anniversary Of Earthquake

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A crew works to secure a crocket stone, which was blessed Thursday afternoon at the National Cathedral, before being lifted into place.
Patrick Madden
A crew works to secure a crocket stone, which was blessed Thursday afternoon at the National Cathedral, before being lifted into place.

One year after a magnitude 5.8 earthquake caused significant damage to the Washington National Cathedral, the first repairs are set to begin. A special ceremony Thursday afternoon marked the milestone.

The bells of the National Cathedral rang at exactly 1:53 p.m. to mark the one-year anniversary of last year's earthquake.

"It took just under a century to get the pinnacles on top of this cathedral; it took just under a minute to bring some of them down," said Frank Wade, interim dean at the cathedral. He offered his blessing to a crocket stone, the first hand-crafted stone laid as part of repairs to one of the grand pinnacles in the cathedral's center tower.

"The cathedral is built entirely by hand — everything here is handmade," said Ward. "You don't go to Gargoyles-R-Us and find something to slap on here. Everything is made by hand."

Up until this point, stone masons at National Cathedral were focused on stabilizing the structure. The medieval-themed cathedral suffered extensive damage to its iconic flying buttresses and pinnacles. A gargoyle even lost its head in the aftermath of the quake. Now, the delicate process of repairing the hand-made adornments gets underway.

So far the cathedral has raised $8 million of the $20 million needed to fully restore the building, after the Lilly Endowment today donated $5 million to help with the restoration effort. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray requested $15 million in federal disaster funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the request was ultimately withdrawn to comply with FEMA's policy of not giving aid to religious institutions.

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