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Blackout 2003

It was just after 4pm. I was on the M104 coming back with my girls from the JCC Day Camp. Everything was normal on our ride back, but when we got off the bus at 88th & Broadway, we realized the streetlights were out. I thought it was just on the one intersection and told the girls to hold my hands as we crossed Broadway, since no one appeared to be directing traffic.

As we crossed 89th Street, I started noticing that all the lights were out in the stores along my block and crowds of people were standing in the sidewalk looking around nervously. I turned the corner into my building and the lights were out. Someone said the whole city was down. Elevators weren’t working & the lobby was dark. Another person said he had just walked out of the elevator 10 minutes earlier, so I knew it had just happened.

I had to walk up nine flights with the girls. Emergency lights were lit on every other flight. They were very dim. We passed some men walking down who said everything was out as far as Ohio. I was getting very worried about another 9/11, terrorist strike, nuclear, etc., but stayed calm. We reached the 9th floor, but it was pitch black and I had lost count, so I had to leave the girls in the dark & walk down to the last flight that had light to check the floor. Went back up and they were still there, pretty calm. The hall on our floor was dark except for strips of light under the door. We felt our way to the end of the hall & tried the phones, but they were dead.

A while later, some of our neighbors came home. One neighbor had her daughter’s family in from Atlanta for the week. Luckily, her son in law had a Blackberry & I was able to email my husband, who was really ticked off, because he had promised himself after 9/11 to keep a scooter or roller blades in his Tribeca office, but of course he never got them. He walked home in about 2 1/2 hours, emailing his street location every half-hour.

So we spent the afternoon playing with my neighbor’s grandkids. Another neighbor came around looking for his wife. He was pretty shaken up: His wife is pregnant and he had no idea where she was. The girls were pretty oblivious. They carried flashlights in the hall & told everyone that they were camping. My 6-year-old found a pick-up Yahtzee game down the hall. Felt like dorm living again.

When we got the news that it was just a power issue and not a terrorist act, we were relieved. But we were expecting my in-laws to fly in from Florida on Friday morning & didn’t know what they were going to do. They found a later flight through Boston & we had a great time. They are here now for their last couple of hours in town.

We woke up Friday morning around 6am, because there were some loud-talking men outside our building. Power was still down and now we didn’t have water. We worried for about ten minutes when power suddenly came on. My 6-year-old woke up a bit later and immediately told me to get pencil and paper to write down our emergency backup plan. She actually thought it was going to be up to us to get the power on for the city and wanted to make a map from our house to the power station so we could get to work. What a citizen!

One thing we learned: a well-stocked emergency bag comes in handy. We had extra batteries, but not enough candles. We learned that it helps to keep the short wave radio in the emergency bag. Still need to find that. We learned that Blackberrys are pretty vital for communicating in a blackout. We learned that my husband’s grandmother was OK and probably better prepared than we were. We finally learned the first names of our next door neighbors. We learned that New Yorkers are the best! (Well, we already knew that).