Monday, July 15, 2019. A quiet weekend in New York; mostly sunny with temps reaching up to the 90s and RealFeel in the upper 90s, all dropping to the upper 80s by early evening.
Late Saturday afternoon, there was a power outage on the West Side in the Columbus Circle that began about quarter to seven in the evening.
I got a call from a friend who was over at Lincoln Center watching a film, wanting to know if I had electricity. Yes. She then reported that she’d heard it was all over New York.
That was early reporting and inaccurate. It went on for about four hours and as a result Broadway shows were closed; people were stuck in elevators on their way to or from their apartments; and subways were stalled.
It turned out to be mild compared to previous power outages. I recall the major blackout in November 1965 at a little after 5 pm when it was getting close to dusk. The lights in our apartment all dimmed at once. Surprised we went to look from our living room window over the neighborhood which was the Upper East Side. All lights in apartments were dimming to darkness. We soon learned that the blackout covered most of the Northeast as well as parts of Canada in Ontario.
Here in New York that November day it was just as people were getting out of work, with thousands caught in elevators and thousands more in subways. Traffic lights didn’t work nor did the streetlights. What was interesting at that moment of mass confusion, was that the crowds naturally became very orderly and patient. There was no panic. Men at every corner were directing traffic. Everyone had the patience to help each other, amazingly. Subways were evacuated by passengers leaving the trains mid-tunnel and walking to the nearest exit.
It was also a very cold night of the Full Moon with nary a cloud to cover it. By six-thirty, our neighborhood just east of Park Avenue, was mobbed with people walking home. The atmosphere in the crowds was quiet but patient. It was as if we were all aware of having an unknown experience for which there was no immediate solution except to get home safely. My mother-in-law, who lived around the corner, came over to stay with us for the duration. She was soon joined by my brother-in-law, and then the neighbors from the floor below.
The experience dominated the conversation. Other neighbors came by to check up on us and to socialize. Neighbors we’d never known or seen before introduced themselves. On the floor below, one neighbor, a single male, met his next door neighbor – a single female – for the first time. They had lived next to each other for a few years, but never met. After that night in November, they got to know each other; and not long after, they married.
Power that night was restored in our neighborhood before midnight, and the town began to light up back to normal. What remains impressed in memory was how calmly and sensibly we, the crowds, conducted ourselves in what might have been a panic-driven scene.
Those of us who didn’t lose power last Saturday were practically oblivious of the blackout on the West Side. It was a typical summer Saturday day evening in New York. Very warm, very quiet and little activity on the streets or the roads.
Meanwhile JH, the man who makes the NYSD happen daily, is in St Andrews Scotland with his father and his brother on a golfing outing. Just to give you a sense of what it has been like in that part of the world, he took some photographs of the beauty that surrounds him where it’s a lot cooler along with a cooling breeze.