Get Trapped in an Elevator with Nova Tuesday, November 2
There are ten billion elevator journeys a week, most of which are inconsequential. But every once in a while there’s an elevator story--like the one about Nick White who was trapped in an elevator for 41 hours--that makes us reconsider our feelings about this convenient vertical transit device.
At 11 p.m., on Friday evening, October 15, 1999, without watch or cell phone, Nick White boarded an elevator where he worked. The elevator lurched to a stop, and Nick tried the emergency phone which was supposedly monitored by building security. No answer. Nick’s 41 hours were recorded by security cameras, but no one was watching the monitors. White rang the emergency bell, called for help, and opened and closed the elevator doors, but no one heard him. Finally, two days later, he heard a voice on the intercom ask if someone was on the elevator. He was then rescued by an elevator mechanic.
Suddenly, jokes about pregnant women trapped on elevators are no longer funny.
Trapped in an Elevator is an enlightening journey through the history of elevators, early innovations, and modern technology. It traces the evolution of high rises and elevators, and explains how elevators changed city life. Without its 58,000 elevators, New York City could never have achieved its successful growth (nor its density).
In addition to learning about elevator anatomy and mechanics, we are introduced to people who design, maintain, and repair elevators, a woman who tries aversion therapy to cure her lifelong fear of elevators (not plummeting--she’s afraid she’ll get in and the doors won’t open again), a woman who has been trapped in elevators three times, a man who was trapped (his cell phone was dead) and used the emergency phone, only to be told the independent service company would send someone out “tomorrow,” and a man who was trapped in a World Trade Center elevator, September 11, 2001. He was freed by a fireman four minutes before the building collapsed; as they heard rumbling, the fireman told him “Run!” (200 others died in elevators on 9/11).Continued on the next page