The Great Blackout of 2012
written by Alexandra Ryan
On Tuesday, March 13th 2012 at approximately 7:30pm, an NSTAR transformer located in the Back Bay exploded causing a fire and sending thick clouds of black smoke into the air. The lights went out and 21,000 customers lost power. The following is a survivor’s account of the ordeal. The people and situations in this story are real. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent.
On the night of the Great Back Bay Blackout of 2012, I was in my kitchen preparing chicken rollatini from a recipe that I found on Skinny Taste. I had just cleaned my apartment, my refrigerator was stocked with fresh groceries for the first time in a month, and Access Hollywood was playing in the background. I was looking forward to a great night with my good friend, Edmund, who was scheduled to arrive shortly. I was about to dip my last piece of chicken into whole wheat bread crumbs (versus ordinary boring bread crumbs) when everything went black.
Jeez. What did I do? Maybe I shouldn’t have had every light on, the dishwasher running, the televison on, my computer plugged in, and the oven pre-heating all at the same time. I need a flash light. Do I even own a flash light? A candle? Think. Think.
I grabbed the headlight off of my beach cruiser and turned it on. It worked perfectly. My survival instincts were taking over. I didn’t know it at the time, but this little light would help me survive the next 36 hours. I made my way to the switch box figuring that I had blown a fuse
because of my inability to conserve energy.
I proudly flipped all of the switches back and forth, back and forth. Nothing. I knew it had to be the whole apartment building. I needed more light. I had purchased a nice candle to give to someone as a birthday gift. Desperate times. She will understand. I unwrapped the candle and lit the wick with an old lighter I found in my desk. I started becoming more and more impressed with my survival skills. I found my way to the door, opened it, and much like I suspected, everything was black.
Did I blow every fuse in the building? Oh no. Will they know it’s me? I don’t think I can fix this problem. Should I hide in the darkness? I hope someone calls someone. I have chicken rollatini that needs to bake and Edmund will be arriving in 5 minutes. I hope he brings wine. We can at least start on that while we wait.
Just then, two neighbors came through the front door. They told me that the Hilton Hotel was on fire and that the entire Back Bay community had lost power. Relieved that I had not caused the black out, I decided to step outside. The city was mayhem. Police were everywhere; streets were blocked offf; red and blue lights were flashing; and everyone was talking on their phones. I tightened the grip on my make-shift flash light just in case someone tried to steal it. I shined the light down the street, and I saw my friend walking towards me looking disheveled and defeated. Because of the road blocks and detours, Edmund had to trek an extra mile to get to me.
We took shelter back at my apartment to avoid any toxic fumes. In order to keep warm and ease our hunger pains, we opened the bottle of wine that Edmund had managed to purchase before the blackout. I transferred the half made chicken rollatini and the rest of my groceries from the refrigerator to the freezer, Even with no power, the freezer would keep them colder longer. We ran into a few other survivors out on the stoop and shared the wine with them (LGD #24). We told stories and exchanged information with our new found friends.
About an hour later, as the effects of the alcohol wore off, our hunger pains grew worse. We needed to eat. Edmund and I decided that spearing fish in the Charles and hunting squirrels and gerbils in the Common was our best option. I began to fashion bow and arrows out of coat hangers while Edmund sharpened rocks into knives.
As we worked on our weapons, the Back Bay drunkard, Merek, walked by and proclaimed that the other districts were alive with electricity and power. Upon hearing this, Edmund and I decided to make the 1.5 mile journey to Sweet Cheeks BBQ in the Fenway. We walked for one minute and decided to conserve our energy and hail a taxi cab across the way. Once we arrived, we gorged ourselves on fried okra, farm salads, whiskey, homemade macaroni and cheese and barbecue baked beans. We had to stock up on warm, fresh, delicious food because who knew when we would be able to eat again.
After dinner, Edmund and I hailed a second taxi in order avoid any wild creatures that crept out of their homes during the fire. As we approached the Back Bay, everything was still and dark. I bid farewell to Edmund and walked into my apartment with my light guiding the way.. I found my way to my bed and laid down. All was silent. I was safe.
I grabbed my iPhone to set my alarm for the next morning when I noticed that I only had 10% battery remaining and no way to charge it.
Good God. How am I going to wake up for work in the morning? My phone is going to die, which means my alarm will not go off in the morning. I need a battery operated alarm clock, but who has a battery operated alarm clock ?
Using my keen survival skills, I knew I needed to use the last remaining battery power to send a message to my co-worker, Hildegard, to let her know that I was in trouble and was not sure if I would be on time for work.. Hildegard received my message and responded promptly and then my phone died. I settled into bed, closed my eyes, and hoped for the best.
My eyes flew open and I knew from the light coming through the windows that it was morning. All of my clocks were dead. Still no power. I had no clue what time it was, but I knew I had to get moving. I turned the shower on. It was ice cold. I jumped in. I jumped out. My hair was wet. No power no hair dryer. I used a dry towel and Moroccan Oil Curl Cream. I opened the freezer to check on my groceries. They were cold but not freezing. I rescued my half made chicken rollatini and stuffed it in my satchel. I walked outside. I could have been asleep for eight hours, eight days, or eight years. I wanted to ask someone for the time, but I was scared.
When I got to my car and turned it on, the clock read 8:04am.
Wow. I’m on time. Must be my internal clock. I should teach survival 101.
I drove to South Boston, knowing I would have to raid the work refrigerator and snack closet in order to survive the next night. Hildegard would understand. I told my fellow workers my story and I was overcome by their support. I was given food and loaned a charger. Surely my parents were worried about me. I needed to talk to them immediately and let them know that I was alive and well in South Boston. After a few minutes of charging the Apple came on and I was able to check my messages. Nothing. I had not one message.
As the day came to a close, I knew that the Back Bay was still in darkness. I decided to stay in another district where the lights shined brightly and the water was warm. I decided to seek refuge at the home of the Lord of Cornwalis in the District of Finance. I brought gifts of berries, roots, mint leaves, and half frozen half made chicken rollatini. (I was not giving up on this meal.) I was received with open arms and the rollatini was delicious. ??I returned home the following morning to find that my power had been restored. It was the longest 36 hours of my life. I credit my keen survival skills, friends, co-workers, Edmund, Hildegard, and the Lord of Cornwalis for keeping me alive. I could not have made it without them.