The Summer Blackout of 2003 Was 10 Years Ago Today

Posted on: August 14th, 2013 at 11:00 am by

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We originally ran this post five years ago. Seemed fitting to revisit…

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 drinks at Swift while the brew was still cold.

Later that evening, with transit at a standstill and already nursing a buzz, the decision was made to cross the bridge into Williamsburg and stay with a friend. 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 tempers were flaring like crazy. Indeed, a couple yards ahead of us we witnessed a day laborer running to attack some random dude with his crowbar at the southeast corner of Forsyth and Delancey.

Crossing the Williamsburg bridge with fellow city brethren was most memorable. Hordes of New Yorkers were so friendly and altruistic. 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 until the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Looking back now, 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.

Apologies for the poor picture quality. These shots were taken with a shitty 2.0 MP Fujifilm camera, without optical zoom.

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