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Last Updated: Friday, 15 August, 2003, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Heading home in a NY blackout
Lucy Elbourne, 24, from Bedfordshire, UK, is working as an intern at a law firm near New York's Time Square. She describes to BBC News Online what happened the day the city's lights went out.

Commuters at the Jersey City ferry port. Commuter turnout was said to be lower than usual on Friday morning.
The ferries were one of the few means of transport
We were coming to the end of the day when all the computers started shutting down. The lights went off, and the emergency lights came on. It soon became apparent there was a big situation going on.

The first thought of many New Yorkers I work with was of a terrorist attack. No mobile phones were working, and people were very concerned.

There wasn't panic, but they were saying there were a lot of similarities to 9/11.

I didn't think it was a terrorist attack, and I thought it was something that would be fixed quite quickly. My boss eventually told us we should all go home.

To begin with, there was quite an exciting atmosphere on the streets. People were jolly, and many sat in bars. A lot of people I think were just relieved it wasn't a terrorist attack and so were happy to sit it out.

As I live in Jersey City, just across the river, I decided I'd get a ferry home. However, everyone else had the same idea as it was pretty much the only thing running.

At first there was quite a festive atmosphere as we waited in the queue. There was free water on offer, people were very friendly and we huddled around portable radios to hear what was going on.

Conspiracy theories

But people's frustrations grew as there was not a lot of firm information about what had happened.

Initially, we were told the power cut was city wide. Then they said surrounding areas had also been affected.

By the time we heard there was a blackout in Michigan and beyond, many people began to think there was something more sinister going on. One guy was convinced there was a cover up and we weren't being told the full story.

Commuters sleep on the steps of a New York post office
Thousands unable to get home had to bed down outside
I was very surprised when the ferries ran out of fuel. I had thought the city as a whole would have been much more prepared for an emergency following the events of 11 September.

The only way I could get out of the city was on the New Jersey train because it is on a different electrical line. It was going to Newark Airport, and as I had a friend flying in from England that evening I decided to go and meet her off the plane.

When I arrived at the airport, I could find no staff and there was no sign of her plane. I eventually had to ring my friend's mobile. She was back home, as her flight had been turned back mid-way across the Atlantic.

I took a taxi back to my apartment - something I would not normally do as it cost me a fortune - and got home at midnight. My journey from work to home normally takes me 40 minutes.

It's currently around 10am on Friday and I am trying to get hold of someone in my office to find out whether I should go into work. The mayor is urging everyone to stay at home today and the state parks and beaches are being opened for free.

Commentary on the television news is very positive. There is a lot of talk about the spirit of the city. But I think that may change and there will be a lot of angry people asking how this could have happened.

The BBC's Jake Lynch
"America's biggest ever cut in power"

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