SAN ANTONIO – People no longer have to just remember The Alamo. They now can visit all of it.
For the first time in nearly six months, the doors to the shrine portion of the historic site opened to visitors Thursday morning.
The reopening represented the latest step in getting back to normal since the coronavirus pandemic began.
”We’re really excited to welcome everyone back,” said Sheila Mayfield, director of marketing for The Alamo. “We’ve had some time while we were closed to really figure out the best way to bring everyone back safely.”
Like other tourist attractions, state and national parks, and even businesses, The Alamo shut down due to concerns about the disease.
The entire site had been closed to visitors since March 16, the first lengthy shutdown since World War II.
Although the grounds, themselves, reopened Aug. 20, the shrine had remained off limits.
”I’ve been a member of an organization that took care of the Alamo for generations, and getting to go back into the shrine means a great deal to me,” said Elaine Milam-Vetter, who had trouble holding back tears as she and her husband, Lewis, stood first in line, waiting for the shrine to open.
She also is a descendant of several Alamo freedom fighters and said the site has always held a place in her heart
.”I brought my children, grandchildren here for years. My father brought me here when I was an infant,” Milam-Vetter said.
While The Alamo holds years of memories for her, other people showed up hoping to make new memories of their own.
”We’re really excited to kind of see it and just kind of live it, just kind of go through thinking of Davy Crockett and thinking of all the history behind it,” said Tom Tricker, who was visiting from Tennessee along with his wife and daughter.
Also new to the site are a few COVID-related rules.
There are new hand sanitizing stations, requirements for face masks and social distancing protocols.
A maximum of 50 people are allowed inside the shrine at one time and visits are limited to 30 minutes at a time.
To regulate the crowd size, The Alamo is requiring shrine visitors to obtain tickets first.
”You have to make a reservation online and then when you get here you’ll get your free ticket,” Mayfield said.
She stressed, though, that there is no charge for the tickets. Admission to the Alamo remains free.
”I think it’s a great idea, anyway, because during the summer you see people waiting in line for hours,” Lewis Vetter said.
The Texas couple had no problem with any of the new rules.
They said they’re just glad to be back on familiar ground.