Blackout

November 16, 2011

The Great Blackout

Last Wednesday marked the 46th anniversary of the Great Northeast Blackout that darkened New York City overnight. I was there. I graduated high school the year before and was working in the city at a graphics studio while attending Pratt Institute in Brooklyn three nights a week. What a different life I would have had if there had not been a war in Vietnam and a draft.

The power went out just about quitting time. The offices I worked in were on the 13th floor but they called it 14th. You know how that goes. I commuted 40 minutes into the city every day on what was then, the New York, New Haven & Hartford railroad. The trains ran on electricity so I had no plans to try to get home. A few co-workers lived uptown and decided to walk down the stairs and try to find a taxi home. That was the same thought that thousands of other office workers had so an hour or two later the men were back. Thankfully they brought sandwiches.

We had no lanterns or candles so being resourceful, we decided to try lighting the end of a grease pencil china marker. A few of those provided some light and as we later learned noxious fumes as well. I had only been doing photography for two years or so and the fact that I was able to get printable negatives of what was essentially, pure darkness, surprises me even today. The camera used was my first “good” camera; a Miranda F with 50mm f1.8 lens.

There was and has been much discussion after the event about “what we learned” and what could be done to prevent such a thing happening again. I am sure that systems and procedures were revised immediately after the failure that left 30 million people in the dark. In this computer age we have far more sophisticated systems in place to prevent such catastrophes. Yet there are more people and we all are more dependent on the services that electricity provides. With the capabilities of computers also come the vulnerabilities. The wars of the future will likely be fought on computer networks, not battlefields.

Hopefully today will be a better day at work than yesterday. Our DSL line was on and off all day.

The Great Blackout

David Bowie from the album “Heroes” – Blackout

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Blackout”

  1. graphicgreg Says:

    Jackie Wood says:
    ” I was there too–working for Mobil Oil Corp on 42nd St and Lex., but my train home got out of the grid before the blackout and I didn’t know about it until I got home.”

  2. graphicgreg Says:

    Mark Margolis writes on Facebook:
    I was in the 9 Th. grade. Talking to a friend on the phone, everything goes black and then all the lights go back on. In my section of brooklyn, we were serviced by a power plant in coney island and we had light. But when I looked out my window the city had disappeared.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: