Friday, August 16, 2013

The Day The Lights Went Out In Pretty Much Everywhere

Blackout Flatiron
Photo credit: Eden, Janine and Jim
Today's prompt is: a summer memory

This week was the tenth anniversary of the big blackout in the Northeastern US. Or, as it's also known in NYC - We're not being attacked? Whew!

I walked miles and miles to get home that day. In the hot August sun. After convincing a sneaker store to sell me sneakers in exchange for letting them take down my credit card info and assuming it would go through.

I cannot express enough how fucking happy everyone was.

When the power went out, everyone at my office rushed to the windows to see if it was just us. The other buildings looked dark, and we saw smoke coming from an exhaust pipe in the building across the street. We thought maybe a fire had caused a few blocks to lose power. (In retrospect, I guess the other building had a generator and that was just the exhaust from the genny.)

I picked up the phone and called a cousin in California to find out what the Hell was going on. He went online and told me it was just a massive blackout. 

Just a massive blackout. 

I remember when these words didn't go together, and even now they seem a bit silly. But in 2003? The entire city had a collective sense of, "no one's trying to kill us? Fucking A!"

A co-worker and I walked downtown together. That was about 2 miles. They were handing out cups of water in front of Ruth's Chris Steak House. Someone sat on a windowsill above the crowd, playing a radio so we could all hear the news.

My co-worker invited my up to his friend's apartment where he was going to wait things out. But I knew that my feet would start swelling if I stopped and I wouldn't get any further. I also knew that he and his friends would be drinking for the duration and I just don't drink that much, so I would be out of my league, or out of my element depending on how you want to look at it.

I walked another 2 miles across the Williamsburg Bridge to my apartment. I'm not sure I've ever been so happy to see anyone as I was to see the shaved ice vendor on the Brooklyn side of the bridge.

I texted with my now-husband, then-friend (the cell phone towers were kaput). Once home, I called my parents from my land line to let them know I was OK. To this day, I have a land line and a non-cordless phone because they're the only phones that keep working during blackouts.

My parents offered to drive all the way across Brooklyn to come get me so I could join them and my Aunt Bea's family in eating the contents of their freezer before they spoiled. With all the traffic lights out, this was dangerous as well as pointless, so I stayed put.

A car broke down in front of my building, and I brought them some candles and water. I sweated a lot while trying to sleep because my neighborhood just wan't safe enough for me to sleep with the door to my fire escape open.

The next day (or was it the day after?), the power came back on and I heard neighbors for blocks around banging on pots and pans in celebration.

By then it was Friday, so we had a weekend to recover before going back to work.

No one was trying to kill us, and unlike the 1976 blackout, this blackout was riot-free. So it was the coolest thing to happen that summer.

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  1. Wow! That is a CRAZY memory! I can't even imagine a blackout that big.

  2. I remember that, it effected us here in PA too. I left work early and (carefully) drove home, then got invited over to a friends house where we all brought our perishables and had a HUGE BBQ!

    It was kind of awesome.


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