Ruminating on the Summer Blackout of 2003 [PHOTOS]
August 14, 2003 was a seasonably warm Thursday, and coincidentally, the conclusion of a fruitful downtown work experience. To everyone else, though, it was just another day at the office. So, when the electricity unexpectedly cut out, everyone was amped to party. Our blasé reaction wasn’t completely unfounded, especially since isolated blackout pockets are fairly common. And although the buildings across Lafayette Street were also dark, most of us still dismissed it as typical Con Ed shenanigans. However, the sight of powerless traffic lights and the resultant automotive gridlock confirmed that a much larger issue was at stake. Only then was our doomsday instinct triggered – terrorist attack, get going! (After all, 9-11 was only two years prior). Not all the co-workers shared such potent paranoia, which resulted in the decision to pound a few discounted drinks at Swift (on East 4th Street) while the brew was still cold.
Later that evening, with transit at a standstill and already nursing a healthy buzz, the decision was made to cross the bridge into Williamsburg and stay with a friend on Humboldt Street. Upon leaving Swift, the modified plan was to meet his wife in Sara D. Roosevelt Park on the north side of Delancey. The walk to the rendezvous was an experience in itself. The streets were a mess, with people scattered everywhere and cars in a virtual standstill. Not to mention, many were on edge and tempers flared. Indeed, a couple yards ahead of us we witnessed a day laborer charging some random dude with his crowbar at the southeast corner of Forsyth and Delancey. Fortunately, no blood was spilled in that incident.
Crossing the Williamsburg bridge with fellow city brethren was most memorable. Hordes of New Yorkers were so friendly and altruistic. In the age before the attachment to pocket screens (not that they would’ve worked anyway – it seemed that people were congregating everywhere, bonding over shared war stories. No doubt a form of camaraderie rarely seen around here, and which we didn’t again experience again until the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. (It was a pocket of quarters and a payphone that eventually allowed contact with loved ones.)
Looking back now, fifteen years later, the Blackout of 2003 was one of both adventure and excitement. It was also a much-needed reset button for a town with backward priorities.
Thanks to a last-minute decision to bring a shitty 2.0 MP Fujifilm camera that day, we caught some of it for posterity.