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darkness falls

It was about 4:15 when the power went off and I just assumed that the air conditioners were sucking the life out of our power, so I headed for the fuse box. Damn. Wasn't a fuse.

Within five minutes, all the neighbors were out, asking each other do you have power? We hung around outside complaining about the humidity and waiting for the buzz and hum of the return of power.

Nothing.

Several minutes later we heard sirens. And then again, coming from another direction. A stream of cars came down our side street, indicating an accident on the main road. Several minutes later and sirens again, coming from elsewhere.

Streetlights must be out, our neighor Rick said. Rick, a retired policeman, turned on his police scanner. He listened quietly on his front lawn for a few minutes and then came running over, breathless. Whole northeast! Even Detroit!

So, what would your first reaction be? Yes, terrorism. We took it in stride, however, and everyone went in to their respective houses to check for candles, batteries and all the necessities.

WABC 770 was the only station I could get on the car radio. Sean Hannity was on the air, taking phone calls from all over and getting on the spot reporting. He reiterated one very important fact over and over. This was not a terrorist attack. Something went wrong upstate, perhaps in Buffalo.

I listened to a stream of on-the-spot reporters detailing all the ways in which New Yorkers were helping each other: sharing cabs; giving rides to strangers; directing traffic and just being patient. Those who still had connections on their cell phones were lending the phones to strangers to make calls to loved ones.

The comparisons to the '77 blackout in NYC, rife with looting and danger, are inevitable. And so are the comparisons to 9/11. While some of you may cringe or roll your eyes the truth remains; we've learned a lot from 9/11.

The city appeared to be in a complete state of calm. People walked the bridges just as they did on 9/11, in massive throngs of strangers among strangers, sharing the misery of the day.

I think we learned how to cope with both the big and the small, and to take situations like this in stride. It's as if a fire drill had rung, and everyone went to their proper places and did what they were supposed to and no one pushed or shoved.

Even with thoughts of terrorism still creeping into the back of our minds, we remained calm, if not a little pissed off that it had to happen on such a hot and humid day. Sure, I worried about the ton of meat I had in the freezer, and I worried about elderly relatives and I sort of shuddered remembering what happened after it got dark in New York in 1977, but I still retained my air of complacency. After all, we've been through worse things than this. Much. much worse.

Out here on Long Island, we mostly went on with our day, while keeping an ear tuned to the radio. The kids stayed in the pool until almost nightfall. We ordered pizza (thank goodness for gas-powered ovens), drank a few beers and waited for some good news.

As darkness approached, we headed across the street to my parents house, where my sister and her husband had already decided to camp out for a while. We listened to the Yankee game on the radio and read, talked and played games and told spooky stories and made spooky faces with the flashlight until we had to squint to see each other.

Such darkness. No streetlights, no light residue from the city, no planes streaking across the horizon, no neon or amber waves of sale signs sucking the pitch black from the sky. It was a sight to behold, looking upwards and we all craned our necks and admired the stars because there were more than we had ever seen before.

DJ took out his telescope and scanned the sky for Mars. The rest of us laid on the grass and soaked up the scenery. The sky was flooded with constellations we never get to see. We pointed this way and that and looked for more and someone joked that they would go inside and print out a chart of the stars.

We felt lucky to be able to what people in other parts of the country whose sky isn't saturated with electric lights get to see every night, and as we lay there on the grass scanning the heavens, we let out a collective gasp as a bright shooting star sailed past us.

Eventually the moon made its way over our part of the world, an almost full moon glowing orange and resembling a partly deflated basketball. We sat in silence for a while until the we had to turn our chairs to keep our eyes on the moon and then I realized how late it was.

We took the kids home and waited. We heard that power was coming back on sporadically in parts of New York. We all camped out in the living room, but it was too hot to sleep well. I read by candlelight as the kids slept and woke and slept and woke, each time asking if the electricity was back.

It came back in fits and starts. I would hear the fan start whirring or the cable box click on and we would get all excited and prepare to move ourselves into the bedrooms and cool air and then the hum of electricity would become more like a moan and darkness would fall again.

This went on most of the night and we finally fell dead asleep at about five, too exhausted to even care about being hot. When I woke up at seven, the fan was on. I waited, held my breath even, but it seemed to be permanent. We were back.

The first thing I did was not reach for the computer or turn on the tv. I sleepily lumbered into the kitchen and kissed the coffee maker. Welcome back, buddy, I said and hurredly scooped some grounds into the basket in case this was just a tease and I would be submurged into a coffee-less world again.

Now it's 8am, the coffee is made, the fans are on (we decided to hold off on the air conditioning to be kind to the power plants), my inbox is full and there are stories of the wonderful camraderie of New Yorkers in the paper.

And I'm going back to bed.

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference darkness falls:

» Silver Lining from Silent Running
The great blackout of '03. I'll join Meryl with a 'nyah, nyah, missed me', as Va wasn't affected. Quite a subdued reaction from Gotham - and nice to see. No panic, just annoyance and trudging onward. But not all was... [Read More]

» If Michele Was Online, What Would She Post? from Wizbang
This blackout must be just driving her nuts. With that in mind I went diving through her archives in hopes that her previous words would provide her fans comfort in their time of need. Here's an entry from her archive... [Read More]

» Blackout 2003 from SquidBlog
No, we don't live anywhere near the Blackout Zone. No, we weren't directly affected. We were, however, affected by the... [Read More]

» She's baaack! from Practical Penumbra
Okay, Michele is back...can John Collins be far behind? (I hope not!). Props to Kevin the Wiz for the link....... [Read More]

» It was only a matter of time... from dcthornton.com
...until some people would try to find ways to blame Bush for yesterday's blackout in the Northeast: Greg Palast "schools"... [Read More]

» The night the lights went out on the east coast.... from It's All About Me... Or Is it?
Michele has done a wonderful post of the lights being out over on the East Coast. She has a way with words and really made me visualize what they were going through. She also made me see what I take... [Read More]

» The US blackouts from Malibu
I was over at Squidblog browsing when i came accross a link to one persons account of the recent blackouts in the US (power cuts, for us English) at A small victory. While brief'ish it was an interesting read and... [Read More]

» The US blackouts from Malibu
I was over at Squidblog browsing when i came accross a link to one persons account of the recent blackouts in the US (power cuts, for us English) at A small victory. While brief'ish it was an interesting read and... [Read More]

Comments

You were the first person that crossed my mind when I heard the news. Great to see you online!

Just like Anna, you were the first person to cross my mind when I heard the news. Glad to hear that you and your family are ok and none of you were stranded somewhere. Good to see you.

Like everyone else, you were one of the first people I thought of. Glad to know you and yours are ok.

glad you're okay :)

Yeah, when the sky glow is gone, the sky is amazing at night.

nice that it happened during the perseids, tho. had you/they ever seen them before?

Ditto on thinking of you. Glad you are back to a coffee available world!

Sounds like you had a nice time with the family, though being without a/c had to be rough.

I had to join the navy & get to the middle of the ocean to see that many stars.
Could see even more with the night-vision goggles on.

glad you're ok... unlike everyone else, you were the 2nd person I thought of... my sister works in East Rutherford, NJ, so I had thought of her first.

You were the first I went to for NEWS, though... skipped FoxNews, CNN, MSNBC & went straight to A Small Victory. I was sure your site was up, but also sure you wouldn't be bloggin'. Had to check to make sure. THEN I went to Fox.

What everyone else said... and this is some of the best writing you've done, Michele. Bitchen!

I'm so glad you're okay!

(Five small words, and they don't really do justice to the concern I had. Take it easy today, y'hear?)

Good to see you back. And to read your wonderful account of your night-in-the-dark. Damn, I wish I could write like that...

Oh, and I may be a long way from the affected areas, but our sites and blogs are hosted 2000 miles away - and they're down. So I'm limited to commenting on other people's blogs right now.

Welcome back!

We were both very worried 'bout ya' yesterday. Glad to hear you're back -- and ok!

Here in the midwest, it's apparently a lot easier to "get away from the city" and see a night sky...

Oh, by the way. Emergency instant coffee supply. Get one. It goes into your emergency kit right next to the candles, matches, and first aid kit.

Yes, yes, yes, I know IC tastes terrible. But something is better than nothing. And sucking on raw coffee grounds is even worse!

Glad everything came out ok. Must have been a little weird and nerve-wracking at first....

I have to admit, John Collins was the first one I thought of...but you were a close second...

That was such a fantastic account. You're a wonderful writer.

Yeah, well my experience weren't so fun!!!

I was still here at work, and after our turbine tripped, on the generator load reject, and the reactor scrammed, about ten minutes later we lost ALL off site power. The only thing we had to keep us going was our 4 emergency diesel generators. Not your average run of the mil, no these are locomotive engines stuck on a generator.

So I spent my time from 5PM until 1AM holed up in our emergency Technical Support Center, as we monitored the reactor cooldown and worked to make sure everything went like it should. Which it did.

The biggest problem of the day ? Getting our main turbine onto it's turning gear so it wouldn't bow under it's own weight before we start back up. A far cry from the dire circumstances we and the Indian Point Plants drill on multiple times a year.

It was not terrorism, it was the 40 and 50 year age of much of the NY and US generation and transmission system, as well as a likely lack of focus on grid stability. My understanding is that part of the Canadian power grid went down, and when the National Grid (formerly Niagara Mohawk) folks tried to pick it up for them, it took out almost the entire NY power grid, which in turn affected numerous neighboring states.

We should be back online Saturday, most likely. The one thing that probably saved everyone from a much longer stay in the dark is the VERY low tech hydro plants at Niagra and St. Lawrence. The never tripped off, but even if they had, it would have been a quick return to power for them. Without that generation, off site power would likely have taken much much longer and we would probably still be running on our diesels.

Hey, I did get to eat management sponsored Domino's pizza and soda for dinner, so that's a good thing, I guess.

beautiful - almost makes me wish we'd gone dark all night. storms here took out our power for a couple of hours, but i never went coffee-less.

Ah, to be able to see the night sky without lights from a city. I would trade a whole hot night with power for that. And that's a really cool shot of the "blood moon".

Glad to hear you're all right too!

glad you're back! ;)

I enjoyed reading your account of last nights' adventures very much. Glad you're ok!

You have a stunning way with words... wow... brought into perspective things I take forgranted (seeing the stars {all of them} and moon each night {when it isn't overcast}.

we finally got our power back here in redford, mi at 7pm, and there are still a slew of folks without power. hard to believe at 27 hours later, we're one of the "lucky" ones. glad to see you made it, too!

Nice writeup. I, too thought of you and the rest of my Yankee friend bloggers.
Out here in the country we lose the power on a regular basis, storms, drunks runnin' into the poles, Ice storms and just plain so hot it trips the grid. 'Course my whole county has less folks than one suburb up there. Dunno how y'all stand livin' so close together.

Chele, you were the 4,739 person I thought of!

Glad to see that you and yours are all right, Michelle.

Michele,
I do have to say that you were not the first person I thought of, because I do have some family up north, But, after my family, you were the first person i did think of. When i saw the news reports and all, I couldn't help thinking at first "Terrorist Attack", because it is definitely something a terrorist would do to instill, well, terror. But, I am glad you tough northerners, if it WAS a terrorist thing, didn't show terror and go crazy, because, fear does fuel things like that.

That blood moon pic is beautiful, and scary at the same time. I don't want to be preachy, but, my Christian background was screaming at me when i saw your pic. In Revelations in the bible it says something about the sky being black as sack cloth and the moon as red as blood, So, that pic did give me chills, though I don't think it's the apocalypse hehehe But, you did write about it beautifully, and, if you ever put out a book, I would definitely buy it :) I like your writing style Michele. Keep up the good work.

And i am glad you and your family are safe and doing well. :)

Xavier

sista!
you were lucky honey
we did not get power till 9pm last night
i think it was some anti
east village statement or something
shit everyone had it but us
and i dont want to see any more pizza
anytime soon
damnnnnn