In the world of 13 August 2003, we slept the sleep of the air-conditioned, our hard drives spinning endlessly, our driveways illuminated by motion-sensing arc lights. We trusted our appliances to be there when we needed them, to switch on when we clapped. Electricity had promised us a world of instant and universal communication, comfort, and entertainment. Family, friends, and colleagues might disappoint us, but we could always count on television.
But on the deceptively bright afternoon of 14 August 2003, that world disappeared forever. Televisions went black. Cell phones fizzled out. Hair dryers lost their wind. Even the Internet, that eternal chorus of joyful noises, fell mute. Millions were trapped in dark offices and silent homes, robbed of any meaningful diversion or purpose. Who can forget the astonishing footage (seen hours later) of the exodus of newly-conscripted pedestrians streaming out of Manhattan, bound for a world without CD players, automatic-ice machines, or Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?
Power may be restored in some areas, but we can never go back to our previous guileless experience. We know now that while electricity may be our servant, it will never be our friend. Our over-reliance on electrical appliances is our wired weakness, our Achilles Fuse. When the nation has recovered from the shock, we will finally realize that we are at war, and have been for some time. The forces of electrification have been at work for over a century, and our vigilance has been sapped by a climate-controlled lethargy.
We shall not despair; if we whine, the blackout will have won. This country was founded by brave, resourceful men, women, and children who knew how to thrive and prosper without clothes dryers or DVDs. It is on these inner resources that we shall draw in the coming struggle. As we recall the wisdom of our great-grandparents and re-learn to hand-wash our dishes, cook without microwaves, and communicate by U.S.P.S., we will be able to say that we, too, could be a greatest generation.
Remember 8/14: The Day That Ironing Died.