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Fairfax Engineer Erik Sohn Repells Down Washington Monument

9:09 PM, Sep 28, 2011   |    comments
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courtesy: National Park Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -- A break in the rain Wednesday afternoon allowed those daredevil climbers to resume work on the Washington Monument. For the first time, all four climbers were out on the ropes inspecting the marble stones for earthquake damage.

One of the climbers is Erik Sohn, a 33-year-old engineer from Fairfax. His sister and nephew drove in from Pennsylvania Wednesday morning to watch Sohn rappel down Washington's most iconic monument.

"He's maybe a little scared," said Sohn's 10-year-old nephew, Mason Blanchard. "But he's mostly pretty honored I think, and he's pretty excited too"

"There's excitement for him, but also a little nervousness," said Sohn's sister, Deb Blanchard. "Seeing it as a still picture was one thing. But to see the movement, to see him climbing out of the window was a little nerve wracking.

See: VIDEO of Emma Cardini preparing to rappel down the Washington Monument

Some people get vertigo just watching him work, but many climbing-enthusiasts are envious. Sohn is now part of an elite group of climbers who can say they've summited the Washington Monument.

"I wouldn't say that climbing has been his passion. He's been an engineer always, and I think he just found his way into this," said Blanchard.

Erik is joined on the monument by three other engineers and architects from across the country. They're all members of the Difficult Access Team for the Chicago-based firm, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.

"They have worked together. They've done lots of work together over the years. And have lots and lots of experience on high structures as well as historic structures," said Carol Johnson with the National Park Service.

Each team member is carrying several items: a digital camera, an iPad that contains images of each stone from the 1999 restoration project, a two-way radio, a voice recorder, and masonry tools that will allow them to remove loose pieces of stone or mortar.  For the next few days, the climbers will be going stone-by-stone looking for any cracks or breakage caused by the earthquake. It's a slow process, but one that will help keep this landmark standing for generations to come.

"I'm very proud. This is a big moment for our family, but I think there's a lot of historical significance as well," said Blanchard.

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