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Climbing National Cathedral tower to the bells (VIDEO)

Sunday - 3/25/2012, 10:36am  ET

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Damaged tower opens for a day

Jamie Forzato, WTOP


WASHINGTON - Washington National Cathedral opened its central tower for one day Saturday for a "tower climb". The tower sustained significant damage during last year's August earthquake. for one day to visitors.

Member of the public had the chance to participate in the climb which has become a semi-regular tradition. The tower was deemed structurally sound and safe prior to the event.

Visitors began the 333-step climb from the Cathedral's crypt which led to the narrow stone spiral staircase. When the visitors reached the base of the roof, they detoured onto an open metal spiral staircase to the top of the tower.

The climb took approximately 45 minutes.

Visitors got a chance to see the bell ringers at work, along with a special prelude performance by Edward Nassor, the Cathedral Carillonneur. The carillon looks like a piano or organ but instead of pressing the keys with his fingers, Nassor strikes them with his fists.

"The beautiful thing about the carillon is that the tone hangs in the air so you can do a lot with phrasing and expression and it's really fun," Nassor said.

Visitors were allowed to step out onto the narrow balcony ledges to get a panoramic, albeit cloudy, view of the city.

Repairs to the cathedral after the August earthquake are expected to cost $20 million. Approximately $2 million has been raised so far.

WTOP's Jamie Forzato had a chance to check out the view from D.C. highest point with video from WTOP's Akeem Henry.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP and The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)