Accessibility links

Faced with Blackout, New Yorkers Improvise - 2003-08-15


The massive blackout that began late Thursday afternoon interrupted electrical power to millions of people in the United States. Through the darkness of Thursday night, Kerry Sheridan found New Yorkers who showed their community spirit.

New York City streets went dark Thursday night. Very dark. No lightposts to illuminate the sidewalks. So some New Yorkers lit candles and brought friends and musical instruments to Union Square Park.

Eighteen-year-old Vanessa Nina sat on the park steps. "It's late and it's pitch black and everybody's walking into each other and, I don't know. It's just very strange. Out of the ordinary," she said.

With no power to run restaurants' ovens or to cool their beverages, the search for food became a top activity. People crowded around hot dog vendors, who were selling out fast of their hot dogs, soda, and pretzels.

One nearby deli opened, lit up by the headlights of a truck that parked on the sidewalk. Business was thriving.

Jonathan Shapiro and some friends came in to buy potato chips. He pointed out New Yorkers were coping just fine. "It brings more people out to be more personable and there's no technology, no distractions. I'm on a philosophical tip right now, ever since I was walking home from work."

Buses provided the only public transport for people. Police officers directed traffic. Dozens of bicyclists rode together through the streets. Vince Druding took a break, resting his bike against the curb.

"I mean we have the whole road to ourselves," he said. "The police were like stopping cars to let us go through. We would like get in front of buses if they were getting too close and they would pull back. We basically took over the city. It was fantastic."

The side streets were more quiet. Outside apartment buildings, families and friends brought out chairs, where they sat together and passed the time. Rebecca Pascale sat on an East Village neighborhood street with her young son and her mother-in-law.

"We're just sitting out here, there's no air conditioner, we don't have a radio," she said. "We really weren't prepared for this at all. We don't have any batteries so we can't listen to the radio so we're just sitting out here with friends. Yep, and candles, lighting our way."

Stan Hamczyk, who is from Poland, said the power outage made him think of the good side of New York's last big disaster.

"Just like that 9-11 experience, people just got out, became helpful. Here people kind of are more festive for what reason I don't know. But they're all out there. It seems like they are celebrating, drinking, laughing having a good time. It's like a Friday night," he said.

And so despite the inconvenience, most New Yorkers decided, there was no better way to spend the evening.

XS
SM
MD
LG