Saturday, August 16, 2003

What I did when the lights went off

Like many commuters in NYC, I was -- to put a positive spin on things -- blessed with the opportunity to take a scenic walk home across the Queensborough Bridge and along Queens Blvd. 1

A few vendors eager to exploit the panic for profit immediately jacked up the prices on essential materials (water, flashlights, candles). Thankfully, we encountered many benevolent souls along the way who provided free water -- including a touching scene of two little kids manning a table all by themselves (with a large supply of plastic cups and gallon jugs from their parents), and a fire station which kept a hose running to cool people in the sweltering 90+ heat.

I walked this very same route on 9/11, so I was familiar with many of the spots where we rested -- I even recognized one of the people offering free water and bathrooms as the same person who did so two years ago.

One time while we stopped to rest we noticed a young woman having a lot of trouble with her shoes (high heels) -- her co-worker (boyfriend?) took off his own shoes, gave them to her, and walked alongside her barefoot.

The experience was not without humor -- In Forest Hills I passed by a liquor store selling shots for $1.00, and a sushi restaurant attempting to clean out its stock (just what you really want on a hot day with a blackout: RAW FISH!)

As it grew dark there were many families sitting on the steps of their apartments with candles -- one little boy (getting into the capitalist spirit) decided to try and sell his to passers-by for 25 cents, but the decision was quickly vetoed by his mother.

I walked in the door around 9:30pm. Residents of our apartment were hanging out front with candles and incense and had a radio tuned in to the news. It was nice to look up and see the stars for a change (a rare sight for those living in New York).

What I've learned from "The Blackout of 2003" -- besides the importance of being prepared for emergencies -- is that New Yorkers are an especially resilient bunch, especially after 9/11. (As one radio announcer commented, we're "90% scar tissue"). 2 I was particularly impressed with the way (mostly) everybody pulled together over the last couple of days, both on the walk back to Queens and in general.

Although a transplanted Tarheel from North Carolina, I have to say I'm very proud to live here.

  1. Now that we have power again I charted my route on Mapquest and, although not mathematically certain, it appears to be btw/ 9-10 miles. Quite a trek!
  2. Still, we're practically wimps compared to the Iraqis, who've been living under similar conditions for months!

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