Mother Nature took over when technology failed, providing the only light to her children in our community on the night of the Blackout of 2003.
Photo by Jillian Santella
While candles burned and ice cream melted, residents of Glen Cove and surrounding communities did what they could to keep cool, physically and psychologically during the twenty-four hour period known as the Blackout of 2003. Along with 50 million other Americans and Canadians they'll continue to ask the question, "And where were you when the lights went out?"
Mayor Mary Ann Holzkamp was at her desk in city hall when the lights went out just after 4 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 14. She immediately went to the police station, knowing that their emergency generator would kick in, enabling her to learn what was going on where, and to what degree. She contacted the members of the city's emergency management team, consisting of fire, police, EMS, DPW and other departments which, as the mayor stated "are always prepared. We slid right into emergency mode." Along with City Councilman Charles Lavine, Ms. Holzkamp spent most of the night driving back and forth between the firehouse and the police station, and all around the town, making sure everyone who had a job to do was doing it, and seeing to it that nobody was in the dark about the situation.
The Glen Cove Volunteer Fire Department had more than its share of difficulties, as reported by Ron Pascucci and Sang-Jin Bae, responding to 24 calls in less than 24 hours. Not that they were all fires, or even emergencies; the electrical conundrum wreaked havoc with generators and phones that were operational. The firefighters mobilized into multiple crews and stayed on duty until power was restored to the entire city. Since the fire department headquarters was powered throughout the blackout, the dispatchers not only dispatched for their own fire department, but also for the Glen Cove Police Department, Glen Cove EMS, Sea Cliff Fire Department and Glenwood Fire Company.
Det. Sgt. John Nagle of the Glen Cove Police Department reported that approximately 25 percent of the city had power restored by 10 a.m. Friday, and neighborhood by neighborhood, everyone had power by 5 p.m., in plenty of time to put away the lanterns and flashlights, and very, very slowly turn on one appliance at a time before nightfall.
Det. Sgt. Thomas Fitzpatrick reported that there were no problems or crimes committed which the police would attribute to the power outage. There were a large number of calls, however, with questions running the gamut from "When will the lights go on again?" to "I think I blew a fuse. How do I change it?"
City Hall employees reported to work as usual, but with no electricity and no phones, which are somehow connected to the electricity in the building. Almost all of the downtown business district was closed, with many establishments exhibiting signs reading "Closed due to power outage."
However, hungry roving reporters and their camera-carrying daughters could find a meal at the Downtown Cafe, where owner John Zozzaro opened for business just like any other day. "I stayed late last night and made sure all my food was sufficiently iced. I came in early this morning and what I didn't like the looks of, I discarded. Then we started cooking with gas. There was enough light to see by from the outside, and the weather was cool enough for customers to sit outside and eat. We improvised and did fine until the power returned at about 1 p.m."
The Glen Cove Senior Center was open on Friday, with no electricity and only one working phone. Approximately 100 seniors had been signed up for lunch that day, and the staff who could get to the center called each senior to announce that lunch would be delivered to his or her home. More than 75 meals were packed "to go," and 25 were served to members who ventured out to see what was going on at the center (active seniors don't want to miss anything, you know). What wasn't going on was the air-conditioning, so after lunch, the group slowly headed home.
So now the Blackout of 2003 will take its place in the annals of history; perhaps become a question in a future Trivial Pursuit edition, and a whole generation of plugged-in video junkies will try to remember how they were kept entertained the night the lights went out.