2003 NYC Blackout

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 15, 2003

The power went out around 4:10pm or so as I sat in front of my computer. I don't know the exact time because most of the clocks in the office are electric. Wandered around the 15th floor for a bit, looking out the window at people in the building across the street looking over at our building and down to the street. Reports via cell phone that the power is out in Brooklyn as well.

I grabbed provisions from the dark fridge (a bottle of water) and set off from 45th Street across town and down 30 blocks to 14th Street and into the Village...after 15 flights of stairs. When I emerged from the building, people were everywhere. It's midtown, so people are usually everywhere, but this was that times ten. I waded through the crowd down 5th Avenue to 34th Street.

Nobody knows what's going on. A red emergency vehicle is parked, the driver has the passenger side door open with the radio blasting the news out to a crowd of people. Everyone stands listening, heads cocked to one side, looking at the ground, straining for details. I join them for a couple of minutes. The radio says that the power is out. Duh.

I pass a woman saying to another woman that Madison Square Garden is on fire. Two minutes later, I walk past a very intact and very much not burning Madison Square Garden. The crowd is so dense that we're all shuffling along, no one getting anywhere fast. Someone bumps into the person in front of me. "Hey, watch where the hell you're going." People are little scared and seem on edge. I don't hear the word terrorism, but the air is thick with the thought.

I reach 18th Street. Some shops are open, most are not. The ice cream shop is doing good business. The owner of a bodega has barricaded the door with shelves of food and stands watch with him employees.

A block from home, I see a couple sitting outside at a restaurant, sipping Coronas, watching the world go by.

And now, I leave for the airport. I have no idea if we'll get there in time.