Happy tenth anniversary, massive Northeast blackout!

The Verrazano sans lights, 2003 (via flickr user Whiskeygonebad)

The Verrazano sans lights, 2003 (via flickr user Whiskeygonebad)

To add to the collection of life tidbits designed to make you feel old – that Orange Is The New Black‘s Yoga Jones was the voice of Patti Mayonnaise on Doug, or that Ben Stiller looks really ancient these days – today is the tenth anniversary of the massive Northeast blackout that wiped out power in eight U.S. states across the East Coast and the Midwest. Or, as many New Yorkers remember it, The Biggest Party Night of the Decade. Remember that one?

The blackout hit around 4:10pm on August 14, 2003, and knocked out power for 45 million Americans and 10 million people in Ontario, Canada. And it took a hell of a long time to turn back on, considering New York didn’t get full power back until August 16, and poor Toronto didn’t get back on track until August 18.

Despite what all those “Go back to Ohio” haters think, I’m a native New Yorker, and I happened to be in the city in August 2003. I was 13 years and eleven months of age, I was two weeks away from starting high school and I was on my way back from tennis camp in Riverdale when the Big Bad Blackout hit. Naturally, when all the streetlights went out and our cell phones lost power (I had a very snazzy Nokia with a sparkly removable cover) we freaked out about a terrorist attack. But once it became clear we had simply fallen victim to a nutso software bug in, well, Ohio, I was mostly just upset I was missing a very important Buffy the Vampire Slayer rerun on FX. It was the Halloween episode in which all the adults act like children. I was very upset.

People have described the blackout as one laid-back party, and since it wasn’t marked by the same widespread looting and vandalism that hit the city in the 1977 blackout, it sounds like it wasn’t too terrible a time. Again, I was stressed out about Buffy, being that I was thirteen and my life was pretty much about television and seeing if Johnny Depp made it into Teen People. My elderly grandmother, who was trapped in a boiling hot apartment in Bensonhurst had to be rescued by my parents, but things were otherwise alright for me. Eventually the lights went on, I caught the Buffy episode on Netflix not that long ago and a decade later we can all reminisce about what we did during the blackout. Who else was in the city or in the Northeast?

One Comment

  • I was in the city and at work when the power went out. When we realized it wasn’t coming back on anytime soon we left work and started the walk home. I work in Union Square and at the time lived in Fort Greene so it was a looong walk, but a lovely day and everyone on the streets seemed in pretty good moods.

    When I got home, my friends were grilling a ton of food to make sure it didn’t spoil and we hung out on the stoop drinking chilled wine until the sunset while someone on our street played their car radio for everyone.

    It was actually really a very pleasant long weekend with early bed times.