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New Yorkers React to Massive Power Outage - 2003-08-16


New Yorkers are a hearty, diverse lot and on the day after its worst blackout in history, there was a wide range of opinions and emotions about what it means and what to do. VOA's Adam Phillips ventured onto the streets to get a sense of how the residents of New York City are coping.

As authorities struggled to restore power, many New Yorkers found themselves outside, when they normally would have been either at work or cooling off in the comfort of their homes. This lady was on the street relaxing with friends.

"It looks like they will bring the city back on line, as they did in 1977. People are not panicking or upset. They realize that it's not terrorism and they are just enjoying the day," she said.

That day is hot and humid, typical weather for New York City in August. And with no electricity to pump water into the apartment buildings this man took advantage of an open fire hydrant to fill his plastic basin.

"The city opened it [the fire hydrant] up this morning. But not for last night. So you can see a lot of people walking back and forth, freshening up themselves and filling up their bottled water.," he said. " There is a little breeze, luckily, and that is the best that one can do."

Supplies are running short in some stores, inconveniencing folks like Tyrone, who still managed to smile through it all.

"I've go no cellular phone, my air conditioner doesn't work," he said. " I can't get the food that I want, so I have to eat a lot of junk (food). I don't understand how [the] Queens [section of New York] could be powered up, but not Manhattan."

Some people are fearful and are expressing their concern as anger. This man felt the city was not doing enough to get the power grid back up. I spoke to him as he waited in line to get into a supermarket.

Phillips: What are you waiting in line to buy?

Man: I'm waiting in line to buy some food for my wife, she has got to have something, she is a Type A diabetic, O.K.? It's unconscionable, how's that for a nice word, isn't it? The conditions, all of this, standing in line like it's Iraq."

But another lady was happy with the way that New Yorkers seemed to be doing their best to help each other especially two of her neighbors.

"Chris and Jose, they carried a lady upstairs in a wheelchair, all the way to the 11th floor," she said.

Phillips: So this is really bringing out the best in New Yorkers?

Lady: You're telling me. It certainly does. I'm very proud of those boys.

There were many stories for people to tell during this blackout, stories that may be repeated long after the blackout is over.

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