Niles family survives Blackout of 2003

Published 1:26 pm Wednesday, August 20, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The Rossows of Niles left on an early flight to New York on Sunday, Aug. 10.
Little did the family of four know their holiday would come to include the experience of being in one of the biggest cities in the world during an electrical blackout that for a few days paralyzed much of the East Coast, as well as Detroit, Ohio and parts of Canada.
In the days before the blackout, the family toured historical sites, such as Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
They also did a tour of NBC studios and other things Big Apple tourists typically do, like going to the theatre and hanging out at world famous Times Square.
But, having left Radio Music Hall on Thursday afternoon; around 4:20 p.m. standing in the hallway outside their room on the 29 floor at a Sheraton hotel located close to Times Square, the family's view of New York literally faded.
David works at Whirlpool, Valerie is a senior at Michigan State University and Edward is a high school student.
The blackout, which caused large problems for travelers, also affected the Rossow's.
Unable to get on a flight until Sunday, they arrived in Niles at 12:30 a.m. Monday morning, two days after their initially scheduled return, Rossow said.
But for the family, who is very happy to be home, the extended stay in New York under highly unusual circumstances showed them a side of New Yorkers they didn't necessarily expect to see.
Rossow said when the traffic lights went out because of the blackout, regular citizens took responsibility and did their best to direct traffic.
Rossow also said people gave out water – it was very humid and hot in New York on Thursday -- and the Sheraton Hotel gave out free food.
The day following the blackout, however, was stressful Rossow said.
As people from all over hustled and bustled to get out of the city because they needed to, or because they perhaps didn't feel safe being in New York anymore, independent cab drivers charged $25 per head from the city to La Guardia Airport, instead of the regular $25 fare.
Rossow said the hardest thing about being in New York during the blackout was not being able to know exactly what was going on because of the limited access to news.
She said their way of staying informed was by using their cell phones to call relatives in Niles who were able to give them updates.
The relatives also helped them with accommodation for the two extra nights they were stuck in the city.
Rossow, who is old enough to remember the blackout and looting of New York in 1968, said being in New York, although people were friendly and didn't panic, was also a little scary.
Edward, who was also at home on Tuesday, said police and fire crews drove up and down the streets all night.
Probably in an effort to prevent what happened back in 68.
But the one thing that struck the Rossow's the most, which doesn't come as a surprise in these days when "everything" seems to be electrically powered, was how dependent we humans have become on electricity.