Fifty years ago on November 9, 1965, a massive power failure hit the northeastern United States and the Canadian province of Ontario plunging more than 30 million people into darkness at the start of the evening rush hour.
The Medical Center remained open throughout the crisis, with emergency generators providing limited lighting and allowing one elevator to function. Medical and nursing personnel remained at their posts overnight, and medical and nursing students volunteered to help. No patients were lost and the ER never closed.
The Stethoscope, the Medical Center’s monthly newsletter, wrote in its December issue that “November 9 is a night that will be remembered with justifiable pride, because of the many examples of thoughtfulness, cheerfulness and hard work under difficult conditions.”
Elizabeth Wilcox (1916-2000), the Medical Center’s talented photographer, was at her film developer on the Upper East Side when the lights went out. Her car, parked nearby in a three-story garage, was fortunately located on the ground floor since no elevators were operating. Mrs. Wilcox drove through Manhattan’s traffic- clogged streets to capture the Medical Center’s long, dark emergency. A small exhibit of her photos from that night can be found in the Special Collections’ Lower Level 1 exhibit case in the Hammer Building.
Image: Patients being cared for in hospital corridors, partially lit due to the Medical Center’s emergency generators. Photo by Elizabeth Wilcox.