Elevator inside Washington Monument breaks down; tourists strand - myfoxcarolinas.com

Elevator inside Washington Monument breaks down; tourists stranded at the top

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Jane Bouyoukas was at the top of the Washington Monument when the elevator stopped working and walked over 800 steps to the bottom (WTTG / Henrehan) Jane Bouyoukas was at the top of the Washington Monument when the elevator stopped working and walked over 800 steps to the bottom (WTTG / Henrehan)

The elevator in the newly-reopened Washington Monument stopped working on Wednesday for about 90 minutes. No one was trapped in the elevator, but dozens of people had to descend the monument stairs -- among them a woman over the age of 80.

The monument (and its interior elevator) had been closed to the public for repairs since the earthquake of 2011 violently shook the structure from top to bottom. The iconic monument reopened to the public on Monday.

At 10:53 a.m., while the elevator was sitting at the ground level, the doors to the machine refused to close. Passengers got off. The 61 people at the observation level – near the top of the monument -- were told to use the stairs to make their way down.

Sisters Victoria and Alexandra Hall said the problem sparked an adventure for them.

“We were forced to descend 896 steps,” said one of the sisters.

What did they think of the trek down the stairs?

“I enjoyed it. I thought it was awesome.”

“Actually, people pay extra for that. We saw a part of the monument that not everyone gets to see.”

The Hall sisters are in their early 20s. Their grandmother, Jane Bouyoukas, is “eighty-something.” There was her phrase. It’s a woman’s prerogative, she told us, to not reveal her specific age.

So, this 80-something-year-old grandmother, with dicey knees, also climbed down the 896 steps of the Washington Monument stairwell.

"Didn’t know if I was going to make it or not,” she said. “Fortunately, they have benches every few stages, so I was able to sit myself down for a while and get myself motivated.

How did her knees feel afterwards?

“Wobbly,” she laughed. “A little wobbly, that’s all.”

Bouyoukas got a round of applause from tourists when she emerged from her stairwell trek.

Even after elevator service was restored (after about 90 minutes), tourists with tickets had to endure longer-than-usual waits to get to the top of the monument.

A second, briefer elevator stoppage compounded the waiting time for tourists.

So, with millions spent fixing the monument, what’s with an elevator that breaks?

Here's the answer: the donated money (and the authorized federal expenditures) were for earthquake damage only. The elevator’s rails were replaced because they were damaged in the quake. The elevator’s actual machinery was not seriously damaged by the shaking, so the elevator got only some attention.

Multiple sources have told us that brief elevator outages at the Washington Monument occur with regularity.

Late in the day, D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) called officials in the National Park Service to stress the need for reliability for the only elevator in the Washington Monument.

Stay tuned.

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