Of course, I thought of terrorism first. The moment I heard the radio station cut off, I was back to September 11th, 2001.
Odd: when I saw the two buildings burning from the window of a train, I was sure it has been a terrible accident -- why I could have thought both towers might have been hit at once by accident, I leave to trauma specialists. So that's one way we're different: last time we assumed accident. This time we assume terrorism. Once we knew it wasn't that, a wave of relief swept us. No matter how bad it was, it wasn't that.
It was Mayor Bloomberg instead of Mayor Giuliani on the radio. That was another clue that we hadn't been catapulted back in time to 2001. He insists that terrorism never crossed his mind when an aide whispered in his ear that the power had just gone out, but I, for one, don't believe him. He's just being our Booster-in-Chief, our designated optimist. Later, when the TV was back on, the relaxed faces of the mayor and his cohorts as they fielded questions in the sweltering heat showed us that they, too, were feeling the relief as much as they were feeling the heat.
And we remembered what we'd learned in those terrible days. People behaved. The usual arrest figure for a New York summer's night is about 850. On Friday, it was 750. That included about 20 looters, all at a Foot Locker store in Flatbush. That was it.
But New York was still New York, still its contradictory self. Some people gave water away. Others sold it for $5 a bottle. Some people offered free lifts in their cars to stranded pedestrians. Others charged $100 for a ride across the Brooklyn Bridge. Most restaurants with perishable food closed the doors of their walk-in refrigerators and hoped for the best with dry ice, but a few of them set up barbecue grills and cooked it all, giving it away, creating impromptu block parties -- "cultivation events," a development professional would call these soirees. Among other things, they was a good business move. Neighbors will not forget the good time and the good will.
Will walked from the Upper East Side to visit his sister in Hell's Kitchen. Nancy walked home from Brooklyn -- "The Brooklyn Bridge was too crowded," she wrote just as if she had been driving in a car, "so I went halfway across and then went back and took the Manhattan." It took her four hours to get home. An astronomer set up his telescope on the Brooklyn Bridge and let people take turns looking at the planets. He attracted quite a following: you don't usually see stars from up there. Too much light on the ground to see any in the sky.
The good multigrain bread Q loves for breakfast wasn't delivered to the store, so we went to the farmer's market and got some. My DSL line was unable to connect for 24 hours, so Matt the Webmaster had to send the eMo for me after my daughter sent it to him on her dial-up. My other daughter missed a get-together with her girlfriends. Minor annoyances. We'll live.
But only one person seems to have died of causes relating directly to the blackout. Incredible. And the city showed its stuff. Again. And it still looks pretty good.
Oh Christ, who wept over the city Jerusalem and longs to gather every person, in every town and place, like a mother hen gathers her young, we thank you for the City of New York. We praise you for the vibrant life on its streets, for its unexpected pockets of kindness, for the special gift of humor, a gift so brisk and strengthening it could only have come from you. We give you thanks for the police, firefighters and EMS workers, as well as for all the other workers who made the blackout bearable. Bless their days of rest this weekend. Help the people of this city to recognize and celebrate their own courage during the blackout as evidence that they are indeed healing from their great sorrow, and give them grace to honor one another all the days of their lives. All this we ask in your own most holy Name. AMEN.