I imagine most of the country heard about our blackout here yesterday and last night which affected about 6 million people. While it was "only" an 8-hour long blackout for us, it lasted longer for some people, and might still be affecting people in various parts.
We were in lecture at the time, and many of us had been distracted by Twitter and Facebook, listening to people saying how the power had just gone off here and there. I was wondering how long it would take to hit our campus. At 4:18, "click". The room went dark and it became eerily silent. After about 15 minutes, a loud siren sounded, with a voice over the speakers telling everyone to remain calm, and to leave their classrooms. My friends and I tried to figure out what to do, because two of us had taken the trolley to campus, and guess what? The trolleys run on electricity. My friend offered to give me a ride to my car, and the other friend took the bus.
That was when the second siren went off. We looked up to see police helicopters soaring over the campus. The siren was an eerie downgrade WOOOOOO-WOOOOOOO reminiscent of concentration camps and tornado sirens. My friend and I hightailed it across campus to the voice saying, "We are closing the campus. Please leave immediately and listen to emergency service personnel."
It was like we were being invaded. Or there was something awful about to happen. Maybe it already had happened.
The parking structure and the surrounding streets were in a standstill. After 25 minutes of sitting in the parking structure, we got out and went to the Veteran's "hang-out" for two hours. It was hotter than hell in there, being almost 100 degrees outside. We stayed there for two hours, trying to get any cellphone service or data plan usage. Nothing. It was like the world had stopped. The landlines didn't work, either.
After leaving, we were able to get to the trolley station where my car was. It was a slow and dangerous process because the stoplights were out and people were real brainless, not treating a dead stoplight like a stop sign. People blew through these dim lights like they didn't exist, and almost crashed. It was horrific. The freeways were so congested that you would have thought the cars had broken down. As I drove by stores, cars were double and triple parked. The local 7-11 had a line going out the door and around the building.
The whole time I was worried about my cats in that heat.
I got home (finally), and one cat had already been sick. The other was hiding under the bed, probably in the hopes that Antarctica had magically shifted earthly positions. The Man was on the couch, apparently having melted into the fabric. Everything was slow.
There was no phone service at all. My parents, who live 20 minutes away, were unreachable. I had camping equipment and candles and water. I was not worried about us, but about those around us. I made sure my elderly neighbor was okay. We settled down for the evening and waited for it to cool down.
Eventually, it did. The moonlight shone through the windows, and I stared at the stars, which normally are unseen due to city lights. The constant electronic hum had silenced. Neighbors' voices sifted through the night, and we were able to hear people from blocks away. Normally I would be annoyed at this, but something about candlelight and the "escapist" feeling made it okay, and actually comforting. I received sporadic text messages from my family and friends (actual calls couldn't be made, but some texts got through).
At around midnight, our lights came on. I went to bed in peace, knowing that I would be able to get ahold of my family in the morning. When the lights came on, it was like the silence had been shifted. It was like an insult to the eyes. Such quiet and calm had been disrupted, which was in exact opposition to earlier thoughts that the quiet and calm had been the disrupting factors.
Maybe we need to shut off our own electricity more often. There is a human connection out there that nobody seems to know what to do with until hours after the power has gone out.
I issue a challenge, one that I'm going to take myself: Life your life in quiet candlelight once in awhile. Rekindle a human relationship with those you live with. If you don't live with anyone, rekindle that relationship with yourself, in the quiet.
We are all so surrounded by, and infused with, this technology and electricity that we don't know what to do when we don't have it.