Mission Monument: Daredevil Engineers

Fall 2011

Several weeks after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the East Coast in late August, Katie Francis, BS ’06, was called in on a five-member team of engineers to rappel down the marble exterior of the 550-foot Washington Monument to inspect the historic landmark for damage.

A junior structural engineer with WJE Associates Inc., of Northbrook, Illinois, Francis worked for more than a week on the obelisk’s north side (facing the White House), examining each marble block. She was looking for cracks, loose stone, wobbly mortar, and other damage. Preliminary reports show moderate damage near the monument tip, where most shaking occurred.

Francis got her start rappelling at Hopkins, where she trained to be a climbing instructor with the Outdoor Pursuits program. This, however, was her most amazing climb to date. “We went out the windows at 500 feet,” she says. “And then we ascended to the top… It was quite a view.”