I was 19 and living in White Plains, NY the summer of 2003 when the North East and parts of the Midwest United States had the most stunning blackout of my lifetime. I was driving on the highway when the blackout first started, and kept spinning my radio dial trying to understand why it wasn’t working. Everywhere I went people were outside, and the energy in the air was crackling. As I would later learn living in Northern New York with snowstorms and the like, we humans congregate when something large scale is out of our hands.
By the second day many areas had power back, but much of New York City was still without. I don’t remember what the reason was but I had a friend coming to visit that day from Massachusetts and as had been planned ahead of time she would be coming into Port Authority by bus.
Looking back now, it was completely stupid for us to drive into a Manhattan with little power, but at the time it seemed like no big deal. Not only not a big deal but it seemed like it would be fun, and it was. At that point the crazy grid-lock that the blackout had originally caused had died down, and no one with any sense was driving around. So for the first time we were able to quickly make our way from White Plains to Manhattan. Once in Manhattan we found that where there would normally be some of the worst drivers in the country, instead you found incredibly aware and conscientious drivers. It was something that I would never again see driving around that city.
Once we picked up my friend Peggy we decided to hang out in the Village and absorb the celebratory mood that the blackout had brought on. Many businesses were still closed but we found a brick oven pizza place churning out pizzas to a crowed mashed out their front door and tumbling along the sidewalk. We waited longer than we ever normally would have for what turned out to be the best slice of pizza I have ever had. We ate our slices sitting on the curb in Greenwich Village as the power was restored to the area. We cheered along with the residents as we watched the lights turn on and the sounds that are a constant in New York began once again to fill the air around us.
Having grown up outside of Manhattan but close enough to easily hop on the train and go in for the day, I have a romantic relationship with the city that will stay with me always. I could easily bombard you with too many stories of the way this city helped shape me growing up, specifically in my teens. That day, immersed in the energy of the city without power, and seeing that gorgeous skyline blacked out for the first time, is by far one of my favorite memories. Living on the West Coast now, I have accepted that I can only have truly good pizza when I get to visit back home. None will ever taste like that day though.
Were you living in the area during this blackout? Got any stories to share?