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D.C. mayor to request FEMA funding for Washington National Cathedral

By Stacey Samuel, CNN
updated 7:40 PM EDT, Thu October 20, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The National Cathedral was among Washington landmarks sustaining earthquake damage
  • The August temblor rattled the nation's capital and much of the East Coast
  • D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray says he will seek FEMA money for the cathedral
  • "This is far more than a than a religious institution. This is an iconic structure," he says

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- On the eve of submitting a request for funds to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Washington Mayor Vincent Gray inspected the damage done to the National Cathedral from the August 23 earthquake that rattled the nation's capital and much of the East Coast.

"This is far more than a than a religious institution. This is an iconic structure," Grady said during his visit to the cathedral Thursday, in an apparent effort to ward off any controversy over the use of federal funds for a religious institution.

"It's a place (that) has an enormous role in the nation."

Gray added that there are precedents in federal funding supporting help for the site, which is host to many official state events, and he said he feels justified in requesting funds from FEMA. There is no guarantee the request will be granted, he said.

Cathedral administration currently pegs repair costs at $15 million, with the work taking at least 10 years to complete.

The damage to the cathedral and the Washington Monument have gotten much of the attention in the aftermath of the 5.8-magnitude quake. Gray was quick however, to assert Thursday that there was damage to some District of Columbia schools and public facilities totaling another $7 million.

Built from private donations, the cathedral is largely self-funded. But, the U.S. National Parks Service declared the site a national treasure and has awarded the landmark $750,000 in restoration grants -- money that the senior director of finance and administration for the cathedral, Andrew Hullinger, said has not yet been dispensed.

If FEMA funding is ultimately not granted, or sufficient, Hullinger says, "We will go back to our roots, essentially, and go coast-to-coast and seek donations to restore this national cathedral."

The cathedral draws at least 500,000 tourists a year, and Gray noted that those visitors also contribute to the local economy.

The cathedral is still on schedule to reopen to the public on November 12.

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