The Black Out
“The world is ending! The world is ending!” Emmy could hear her neighbors screaming.
“What is going on,” Emmy thought. It was about 5 p.m. in the afternoon and Emmy had just gotten up from an afternoon nap, still drowsy, she realized that there was no electricity.
She tried turning on the bathroom light, but there was no light. Emmy opened the refrigerator to see if it was still on, but it was off too.
“Oh no,” she thought, “no television.”
Emmy loved watching the Mickey Mouse Club and all the cartoons after that show. All of sudden, her mom came in the front door, huffing, and puffing and began to wave her arms, she began to tell the family that everyone in the “Big Apple,” New York City, had no electricity! It was a major blackout! And that a lot of neighbors think the world is ending.
“Only those with battery radios will be able to hear the news tonight,” Emmy’s mom said.
“People are going crazy out there, buying flashlights, candles, batteries, and water. People think the world is ending!” cried her mom.”
“I wonder if the world is ending,” Emmy asked her mom.
Emmy’s mom continued to explain, ignoring Emmy’s comment. No one knew for sure why the lights in the Big Apple were out. They all wondered how it could be that the entire city, every single building was in the dark. How would people be able to walk home, with no trains, no buses, and no taxis? Emmy’s mom explained how traffic was backed up, and how people were taking advantage of the situation looting and littering the city.
“Everyone is out in the street!” Emmy’s mom said, staring off into the room with fear in her face. Once Emmy’s mom was finished explaining what was going on, Emmy asked excitingly as she tended to get when a new adventure was presented to her,
“Can I go out and see?”
Emmy wanted to see all of her neighbors without electricity. “Wow, the whole city without electricity.” Emmy thought to herself. She knew how it was to be without electricity since sometimes her mom or dad would forget to pay the bills. But this time, it was the entire neighborhood now that was a sight Emmy did not want to miss this. It was still daytime, but it would be dark soon. The Big Apple lights would all be out, thought Emmy. She had never seen the entire neighborhood without electricity. This would be quite a sight. Since in New York, there were always lights on; no matter what time of day it was.
The tall buildings always look like tall Christmas trees. The avenue s also had all their lights on, the park had lights on, but, now everything was dark. To see the city and her street so dark was a bit scary. Even though Emmy was a little apprehensive, she did not want to miss this thrilling time. She knew for sure the hall way going down stairs to the first floor would be pitching dark it always was on a regular day only the light of the windows in the staircase would light the way when there were no lights on and the day was still light outside. The sun was setting, enough to go outside, and Emmy wanted to go downstairs as soon as possible to check things out.
The hallway was always dark. It always needed lights. She wanted to experience the feeling of coming down from the fifth floor in dark without any lights on. “Mom, can I go outside and see for myself? I know there must be lots of neighbors outside that can use my help? Can I see if they need something, and at the same can time I go outside to see for myself?” Emmy asked.
“Yes,” her Mom replied, “and make sure you stop to check on the two older couples. You know the ones from the old country.”
They did not speak very much English. The Jewish couple who lived on the fourth floor, and the Russian couple who lived on the first floor. Emmy’s Mom was known for her missionary work, she likes going to church and helping her neighbors. Emmy went downstairs to the fourth-floor apartment to pay a visit to her neighbors.
They believed in observing the Sabbath day, that is every Saturday, Emmy would light their pilot on the stove and their lights switch. As she walked down to the fourth floor, she could see the apartments it was pitch dark with the exception of her flashlight and some of the few neighbor’s flashlights that were on while they stood talking to their friends and relatives. She met neighbors on the fourth floor discussing, shouting up and down from one floor to another, why the electricity was out. Emmy could hear them saying that some kid must have cut the electrical wire, leaving everyone in the dark.
The Big Apple had a lot of eight-year-olds thought Emmy, curious at that, they must have been playing and got tempted to cut the electrical wires may be some little kid nipped the wire with a pair of scissors causing the entire New York, the big apple’s blackout. Oh gosh, thought Emmy, I’m glad it wasn’t her with that problem, but some other kid’s problem. She remembers, cutting some telephone wires, the thin telephone wires that surrounded the border of the floor; Emmy must have been younger than three, maybe four years old.
But she still remembered as if it were today her teenage sister yep, the three of them just let her have it, they spanked her real good for being bad, the pair scissor she had used would be charcoaled, she remembers getting shocked, she just jumped back. They would yell at her saying things like you’re not curious George.
“What were you thinking about?”
You could have died they would say. Since that day Emmy has not played or gone close to the telephone wires, but somebody tonight might have cut some wire to cause the entire Big Apple to have a major block out today. She got to the fourth-floor apartment and the Jewish older lady was standing by the open front door.
The apartment was pitching dark, with the exception of a big candle lit in the kitchen placed on top of the stove. She was standing by the door as if waiting for Emmy to arrive. The rest of the neighbors were still talking and shouting. Emmy could imagine that entire block all the neighbors outside were trying to find out what really happened, why were there no lights in the entire “big apple” of New York City.
Emmy stopped right in front of the door and peeked in and asked, “ I could be of any help” the fourth-floor neighbor just pointed to the candles, flashlight, and radio as she was sitting by the kitchen table and replied,
“no. I will be fine tonight, thank you.” Good, Emmy replied…there were times, however, when she did need my help, but not today, thought Emmy, good.
I’ll go to the first floor to my next neighbor to visit, and soon I’ll be outside finding out what is really happening outside. She left hopping and skipping down to the first-floor apartment. She knocked on their door. They opened the door as if peeking through a crack; it was, he the husband. They looked ancient, old strong, and tall at the same time. She asked if they needed anything from her. Emmy would volunteer her time, to do anything for them; they were her neighbors and she wanted them safe. But they nodded no that they did not need her help.
Emmy thought of them t kind of strange, she rarely saw them smiling. They did not speak any English. Yet they loved sitting in front of their window watching the children play. They seldom smiled or interacted with the other neighbors. Emmy never saw the wife outside only the husband. But the children around the neighborhood got used to their ways of being, they were like the grandparent they never had and we would always wave to them. Emmy loved the outside. She always found a reason to go outside and play. She couldn’t explain how people were just cooped up in their homes, Emmy thought to herself.
The Russian couple loved sitting by their window on hot summers and good days to watch the children play in the neighborhood, children would have a different kind of games going on and they would watch intently at the children’s play. The neighborhood would get wet and wild at times, especially when the “wrench” was being used on the Johnny pump; that is when the fire hydrant was open. Everybody in the block would be out getting wet and this Russian couple was no exception, they would just sit and watch the madness, of all these Puerto Ricans in the block wanting to take a dip in the cold water on a hot summer day in Brooklyn N.Y… Someone would hold the mouth of the Johnny pump with a can of soup open from both sides to help with evening out the water into a neat spray… of tons of gallons of water, coming out of the mouth of the Johnny pump, people, kids, and even pets running and screaming.
The sun was hot and shining on the water allowing everybody to see the rainbow the water was reflecting; yellows, reds, indigo, etc. People were having fun under the cold water to ease the hot summer weather. Even the police cars would get wet trying to get all of the people to stop opening the fire hydrants.
But today’s madness was the “blackout”, not the “wrench.” The “blackout” gee thousands of people will be stranded in their office in tall buildings. Where the only way up or down a building is by using the elevator and only in an extreme emergency would you use the stairs? Gee, today everybody will be using the stairs just like us. No elevator.
She thought of the people that worked in the Empire State Building, they would have to come down 102 stairs. No electricity, no transportations, no street lights. People in the neighborhood thought the world was coming to an end. The hardware store downstairs in front of her apartment building was closed, they were out of batteries, radios, candles, and anything that would light people’s way as they walked home from work.
It was already nightfall when Emmy got downstairs, the neighbors were in small groups, people gathered around the front of their apartment buildings. In front of the avenue, people were walking fast, some running and some dazed at what was going on in New York City with no lights, people’s faces looked confused and anguished look. Emmy could tell they already wanted to be home with their loved ones, left behind, traffic, cars, and trucks making, complete stop at the traffic light in front of the house, the store owners closing their business as to keep hoodlums from breaking their stores and stealing, their precious merchandise. The street had an eerie feeling to it. Herr, she hated the loud sounds of ambulance and emergency alarm that echoing through the city, warning citizens of danger.
The city even sounded the aerial war zone alarm, warning citizens to stay home. This scared Emmy even more and she ran home to the apartment to be in her mother’s arms. All she knew is that when she heard that frightening siren, the sound was like no other, all of sudden she just wanted to be home.
Emmy ran upstairs in the pitch dark all the neighbors had already gone inside their apartments. She was the only one in the staircase. She ran upstairs as quickly as possible into the apartment. She knew she was safe, it smelled delicious, her mom had just finished cooking dinner on the gas stove. She was happy to be home with her sister Amy who wanted so bad to play restaurant with their brand new tea set. Emmy played for a good hour before Emmy decided to go to sleep. The next morning part of the city already had recovered their electricity.
She immediately asked her mom what had happened the night before, all her mom could do was repeat what the news was reporting on the transistor radio. They are talking:
“about the city overloading the electrical grids from here to Boston Massachusetts. There was looting and vandalism in the Big Apple continued Emmy’s mom that is the way you heard does awful sirens like there was war. The vandalism spread out to Crown Heights and Bushwick where 25 fires were started, and accordingly, they are still burning this morning. Emmy, the looting was in many places they were everywhere thirty-one poor neighborhoods including, Crown Heights was really hit.”
The news reported: “ that people looted seventy-five businesses in a five-block spree. How Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn was on fire and how thirty-five blocks off Broadway were destroyed, 134 stores looted, and 45 of them set flames.”
“Emmy, this is why people were screaming the world is ending. This is not possible Emmy mom would tell her father that was also home.”
She continued trying to explain what she had just heard on the radio.
“Could you believe it more than 4,000 people were arrested”? Oh dear no wonder everybody was frightened of those sirens that sounded like there was war in the street. Thank god the lights were back on…thought Emmy,
The lights came back the next day at 1:45 p.m. but for those towns like Staten Island and Queens the electricity did not come back until July, it was only until then did the entire “Big Apple” was up and running. Emmy’s neighborhoods were spared. Emmy would never forget that November 9, 1965.