The worst Blackout in American history occurred this date. It
was a day and night of more Vigilance than Terrorism.
16, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 703
BLACKOUT--A Test Of Vigilance Over
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
We roasted marshmallows and the kids went
marshmallows over a barbecue grid
Then, I went
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.
people coming together to 'be cool' and 'stay cool' during the
15--BLACKOUT--The Worst In American History
- 2004, VigilanceVoice.com, All rights reserved -