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Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers and visitors responded to the crisis with some of the same good humor and willingness to help each other that they had exhibited twelve years earlier. At Beame's request, stores, banks and most offices closed, reducing traffic on the city's streets. At the intersection of Park Avenue and 79th Street in Manhattan, an athletic young man wearing a cape and holding a pink flare controlled traffic like a matador handling a bull. On the other side of the island, traffic was directed on Riverside Drive by David Epstein, 17 He joked: "My mother told me to go out and play in the traffic, and here I am." Sixteen passers-by turned Coney Island's 150-ft.-high Wonder Wheel by hand, enabling stranded riders to reach the ground.
Most of the city's 17 hospitals switched smoothly to emergency generators. But Bellevue's back-up system failed, and doctors and nurses had to squeeze bags of air with their hands to keep several patients alive until resuscitators could be turned on again. When back-up generators broke down at Brooklyn's Jewish Hospital and Medical Center, about 100 people had their wounds—mostly cuts from knives and broken glass—cleaned and stitched at a makeshift field hospital set up in the parking lot under high-intensity spotlights powered by fire-department equipment.
Hotels were jammed with tourists, conventioneers and suburbanites who could not make it home because the electric-powered commuter trains were out. At the Algonquin, guests were unable to get into their rooms for an hour because the doors lock electronically. Many spent the night partying at the round tables in the dining room that was made famous by Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker. At the New York Hilton, switchboard operators phoned each room to tell guests that two can dles were in every bureau—fixtures since the 1965 blackout. The hotel offered free coffee and food through the night to hundreds of people who milled through the lobby; employees clambered up the stairs each hour with food for the guests on the upper floors. "Alors, c 'est extraordinaire!" exclaimed a Swiss tourist, Irene Baillod, after trudging down from her 39th-floor room only to find that she had left behind flash cubes for her camera.
Some 500 diners at Windows on the World, the restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center, finished their meals by candlelight and rode to the ground on a service elevator that was served by an emergency generator. But 35 people were stranded for the night on the 86th-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building. After a free breakfast provided by the building's management, half of them walked down the stairs to the ground, while the others waited until the elevators began operating again Thursday afternoon.