As of this morning, I am at home and finishing cleanup for the arrival of family visitors from the Midwest.
During the blackout of 2003, I chose to be marooned, along with Jim Minz and his wife, Sondi -- who brought food -- and Gavin from advertising, in the Tor offices in the formerly air-conditioned and still quite cool Flatiron Building (rather than venture out into the heat and crowds to find a way home).
The hard part was really the first hour, which was a flurry of anxiety and discovery. It took a half an hour gathered around the one working radio to figure out that most everyone should just leave immediately and walk home if possible. Some people instantly invited others to share their apartments. A frowning Kathleen Fogarty appeared, saying that she and her assistant Melanie had been stuck for nearly an hour in the elevator, but that John Sargeant, the President, had been there when they got out to give moral support. Much later, at 8:30 or so, Dolores, Linda Quinton's assistant, arrived up the 14 flights of stairs and left with some water and soda from the Tor supply for herself and her roommate in their oven-like walk-up apartment. It was a moderately pleasant experience, marred by the gradual disappearance of civilized conveniences such as the phones (after 4 hours), stairwell and lobby lighting (after 8 hours or so), and running water (perhaps 12 hours), and the lack of batteries for any of the many radios and appliances. But it never got hot.
On Friday morning at 8:30, Linda Quinton arrived to work for the morning with her fine dog, Sam, and the other overnighters left. John Sargent, covered with sweat and carrying his in-line skates, arrived up the stairs, from Brooklyn, with stories of his walk home across the Brooklyn Bridge in a cheerful atmosphere, to take care of his company. After spending a few hours cleaning my office, I gave up on the predicted return of electricity (and fresh water in the taps and toilets, and walked to Grand Central. The trains were scarce and random, so I took a diesel to Tarrytown at about ten miles an hour (the signals were out) and finally arrived home at 3:30 pm. The first person I met in Pleasantville told me he had waited in Grand Central all night and had arrived in town at 5:38 am. His fondest memory was the first sight of the lights in the North White Plains station as the train neared home. I was happy to have made the choice I did. I do not in the end feel that I lost by the experience.
And I have a number of fine visual images to treasure, such as the nearly full moon rising over the darkened buildings and the park full of people below, and the Empire State building up an empty Fifth Avenue at eight am.
The blackout of 1965 happened a month after I first came to New York City to be a graduate student, and is on the whole a pleasant memory of friendly people and a warm, party atmosphere on the West Side, where I walked around for six hours before staying in a friend's apartment rather than walk home. I am pleased to hear that many people had that kind of experience this time.
Now, though, my ISP seems to have been shut down for most of 36 hours, and no email from those hours seems to have survived the grid failure to reach their server, so if you did email me @tor.com you should assume that your message is lost and send another.