The retired college professor remembered the D.C. firefighter dropping into the stalled elevator in the District on Sunday and saying, “This is not going to be pretty.”

As it turned out, the former history professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, W. Wayne Smith, his wife and their granddaughter spent about two hours in the cab of the stalled elevator at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts before being hoisted to safety.

After praising the work — and honesty — of the rescuers from the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, Wayne Smith said, “It wasn’t as bad as we had thought.”

Of course, it was not what Smith, 82, wife June T. Smith, 80, and granddaughter Solana Silverman, 12, had come for. They had tickets to see “Aladdin,” had arrived early and were on their way up to the Terrace Level for lunch before the show.

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After about 30 seconds, Wayne Smith said, the elevator stopped. They phoned for help almost immediately, he said.

When the firefighter dropped in through the small emergency hatch in the elevator ceiling, it became a question of the order of escape. The family was schooled in the chivalric tradition. Women and children first.

But, Smith said, he had recently had knee replacement surgery. Under those circumstances, he said, his wife told him to go first. Although, he said he “felt very guilty,” he did.

He wondered if he could fit through the ceiling exit the rescuer had used. But, he “squeezed through it.” Harnessed and roped, he was pulled up. When he looked up, he said, it appeared to be about 40 feet to the top of the shaft. He said he thought: “That’s a long way.”

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But he made it. All three did, he said. And his granddaughter aided in her own rescue with her rock-climbing skills, he said.

“They did not get to see the magic carpet, but got a unique ride of their own,” a fire department spokesman said.

A relative said they were given tickets for an “Aladdin” show next month.

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