Article Overview:  The worst Blackout in American history occurred this date.  It was a day and night of more Vigilance than Terrorism.


Saturday--August 16, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 703
BLACKOUT--A Test Of Vigilance Over Terrorism
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

  GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Aug. 16, 2003-- "G-Pa, G-Pa, I can see the stars.  Look.  Look at the stars!"
    That was the excited Voice of Matt, our 7-year-old grandson at the peak of New York City's Blackout August 15, 2003.

My grandson could see the stars

     My wife and I and two grandchildren, Matt and 5-year-old Sarah, were sitting out in the backyard of our daughter's apartment.   She was inside with our 1-year-old grandson who had a bad bout of stomach flu during one of the worst possible times.
     The small garden encased by tall apartment buildings is a repose from the concrete jungle of New York City living.  And, during the peak of America's worst blackout, it was a safe haven for us.
     We were reading "By The Light Of Silver Lake" from the Little House On The Prairie books to the kids.   Since the beginning of summer,  their mom and dad nightly read to them from a collection of Little House books, and it seemed appropriate we should continue even without electricity. 
     The table near the BBQ held three candles, with aluminum foil half-circles shaped behind the candle flame to cast the light in one direction and increase the ability to read the printed words.  We wisely saved our flashlights and batteries for the long evening we knew was ahead of us.
     Next to us, I had built a small fire in the BBQ out of sticks and twigs, not unlike what Laura Ingalls Wilder might have experienced in her pioneering days that sparked her imagination to write a series of books that the most modern and advanced would read to their children now and in the future.

The BLACKOUT made our grandkids better relate to and appreciate the stories from the Little House and the Prairie books

     The books are not about the glorification of industrial or technological magic, but a peeling back of human emotions and human interactions that are forever changeless.  
      In these chapters, my wife and I read that night,  the Ingalls family had moved from a dirt floor home to a railroad surveyor crew's real house that had three separate rooms, a store of goods, a stove and coal.  Laura was in Seventh Heaven enjoying the "modern" conveniences.   Their nearest neighbor was forty miles away.
      As the flames flickered and the revelers out in the streets of the Lower East Side cheered and sang, enjoying the comfort of fellowship on the streets rather than the darkness and constriction of sitting in their small apartments, I read in a dramatic Voice about a way of life modern children often think is fantasy until an event like the BLACKOUT occurs.
      Suddenly, all the technological security of modernization is stripped away.  The phones and refrigerators don't work.   Candles replace lights.   Neighbors who slip in and out of doors, those anonymous faces rushing here and there, suddenly appear in throngs. lining the streets, some with BBQ's, most all with their children and families, laughing, joking, playing cards, sipping beer or Coke.
      Humanity comes together.   The darkness brought faces and names to life, where before masks of anonymity previously existed.
      My grandson, during a pause in the story, leaned back in the patio chair and was looking up at the New York City sky, painted in its most natural form.   Without the ambient light of billions of light bulbs, the shroud of human interference with Nature's natural beauty was lifted.
      Suddenly, Matt's Voice rang out:  "Look, you can see the stars.  Wow!"
      Sarah leaned back her head and soaked up the sky.
      The moon was bright, and Mars glistened near it, approaching its closest location to the earth in modern history.  (August 27 Mars will come to within 34,649,589 miles and the next time Mars may come this close will be in 2287).
       The children and I and their grandmother, G-Ma, spoke about the BLACKOUT in relation to the gifts we "thought we had."   All the things we normally took for granted, electricity, television, computers, phones had been unplugged.  Ironically, we were left with the same tools that Laura Ingalls and her family had back in pioneer days.  What a timely lesson for the grandkids.
       We roasted marshmallows and the kids went to bed.

Roasting marshmallows over a barbecue grid

       Then, I went to work.
       My job as a Vigilance Reporter was to record history.   Nothing seemed more compelling to me than to capture a picture of Times Square without lights.   And, to measure the temperature of humanity trapped in a city of technology that had suddenly been stripped well-nigh clean.
       In Vietnam I had spent many days and nights in the jungles, watching people living with nothing but their wits, raising children in grass huts without any modern tools except those given to them by their Creator.
       As a young man, I had also worked in the woods in Oregon, and living in primitive survival modes was not unknown to me.  How people reacted to those situations, however, was always fascinating.
      I took a flashlight and my digital camera and made the trek up to Times Square.
      I won't write about the event now.  I will save it for a later entry.  But I will share with you a series of pictures and caption them.
      What I will comment on is that the community of people came together.   The thousands and thousands of people sleeping on the streets, the helping hands of people linking arms to insure the safety and security of others, and the general lack of Terrorism or acts of criminality and looting, signaled a sense of community in a city often accused of being cold and indifferent.
      Two great events have solidified the community of New York City in the 21st Century.  One was the tragic Terrorist attack of Nine Eleven and the BLACKOUT.   In both cases the sea of humanity swam as one.
      Here are some of the many the pictures I took of that evening.  Tomorrow I will share how the Sentinels of Vigilance were on guard during the BLACKOUT.


Community and people coming together to 'be cool' and 'stay cool' during the BLACKOUT

 The deli's were deluged selling out of cold drinks and any staples.                                        East Village revelry.

   The busses were there for the New Yorkers........night  ................................    and day

       A campfire lit up Time's Square ...............    and it remained  quiet and calm that night and the  following morning

I witnessed a lot of people 'sleeping over' in the Big Apple ...............................from Battery Park............. Grand Central Terminal.                                                          The Red Cross was on the job

Neighborhood creativity and ingenuity:  from a Chinese (menu) lantern to...........................a car battery operated television atop a car

 Matt had his Rescue Heroes Back Pack ........ and our neighborhood in the Lower East Side had its fire hydrant


My wife and I had just 'settled down for a short hot summer's nap'   with our meager candle supply,  when the power was turned back on


Aug 15--BLACKOUT--The Worst In American History

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