The Magic of a Moment

On August 14, 2003, while driving home, I pulled in for gas. It was approximately 4:00pm. Little did I realize that at that same moment, power surges were knocking the entire Northeast electrical grid offline, in what became known as the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003. By the time I arrived home, there was no electricity to be had anywhere in town.

Like many people, my wife and I were caught completely unprepared.

All of our means of communication (telephone, pre-wireless computers, radio), our food supply (stove and refrigerator) and our access to our financial resources (debit and credit cards) were all taken away from us in the blink of an eye. Between my wife and I, we had barely six dollars of actual cash on hand. The only food we had that didn’t require cooking or cooling were boxes of crackers, some cookies and dry cereal. The radio in our car still worked so, we spent time huddled in our garage, straining to hear any detail that might help us to understand what was happening and how we should respond.

But, the funny thing about the whole situation was that, after our initial moments of prancing madly about in panic, we came to realize that we were actually ok. Our world had gotten very quiet but, we were not hurt or in immediate danger. Everything slowed down. Our world shrunk to the parameters of our physical environment.

So, we lit our candles. We dined on our crackers and drank some warm wine we had in the basement. A friend came by so we chatted the evening away. And then, the real magic happened. The stars came out. The same stars that are always there but which lay covered in a blanket of artificial light from below. The stars came out and they were everywhere! What beauty! What majesty!

silhouette of man during nighttime
Photo by brenoanp on

There are many wonderful stories that emerged from that blackout. Stories of citizens who took the initiative to help direct traffic when the traffic lights went out. Folks with generators or barbeques who cooked meals for their neighbours or other passersby. People who called upon seniors and sat with them throughout the night in order to provide security and stability in a time of confusion. The good in our society shone brightly in the darkness of those hours.

But, what most people remember about that night is the stars.



Often, the most magical of moments are the ones you least prepare for. Those times when destiny arrives unannounced. My wife and I learned a lot about ourselves during that blackout. We are better prepared now for an emergency (in the sense of having a supply of food and water on hand at all times, having a small stash of cash safely tucked away in the house and so on). But, more than that, we have learned to slow down the pace of our lives and make time to enjoy the world around us.

Admittedly, we both still like our “screen time” and the access to information it gives us and the connectivity with the world it provides but, we also, realize the importance of making time for those “star-filled” moments that exist outside of the noise and hoopla, just waiting to be discovered. We make purposeful time, each and every day, just for us…..together and/or with our children….to talk about our day, to share our discoveries and our dreams, to go for walks and allow the beauty of the world around us to soak into every fibre of our being or, let’s be honest, to just be nosey, sometimes, too.

There was a time in our lives when we prided ourselves for our ability to multi-task and get so much done. How productive we both were. And, how little it really mattered when the power went out that August afternoon.

In the wise words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around, once and awhile, you could miss it.” The Great Northeast Blackout of 2003, gave us permission to stop the hustle and bustle of our lives and look around. What we saw in each other and in the world around us, was beautiful. It was the magic of a moment that revealed the joy and wonder of the world in which we live. For that, I am eternally grateful.

P.S. It is not by fluke that this work of art is my family’s favourite.


Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

14 thoughts on “The Magic of a Moment”

  1. When there was a black out years ago in Peterborough I was living in an apartment building with my now husband then boyfriend. We spent most evenings cooking together, watching tv, and going for a walk. This evening dinner was over, and we sat on the balcony stargazing above the dark city. It was a great night for conversation, and just enjoying the beauty of the sky. Sometimes we need reminders to just look around!

  2. MEMORIES, MEMORIES, MEMORIES. Your words brought back recollections of this time. We were made to STOP everything in our daily life and concentrate on how we were going to manage our new way of life and all the mystery that it held. This is very similar to retirement………. another new way of living and discovering new magical moments.

    1. Absolutely true. Even today……I drove from Cobourg to Peterborough to have my Mitsubishi serviced. Normally, I can go up Hwy #28 in 30-35 minutes. Today, 50 minutes because I was travelling at a time I have never travelled that road before and was in a caravan of Sunday drivers. My life is so new to me now. 😂

  3. Did you know we caused the blackout? We had just plugged in our first window air conditioner for the first time and, tah-dah, we created magic!

  4. I am so impressed with your use of my word ‘magic’. I remember the black out like it was yesterday. Of course, we were off for the summer so I had no responsibilities and nowhere I had to be (that I can recall). My neighbourhood spent those days camped out in front of our homes also watching the beautiful starlit nights. We pooled all our food together, cooked on our bbq’s and came together to eat and drink. One of them had a generator so all our essential fridge stuff was stuffed into their fridge. There was milk for coffee. We were all good and were just getting used to this carefree lifestyle when the power came back on. We had several crank radios but by the third day we didn’t even bother with that – just enjoyed each other’s company – akuna matata!

    1. Exactly! Out of a potential calamity came this magical experience. Glad yours was so positive, too. Thanks, again, for contributing your word. Feel free to offer up other words, if the mood strikes. ❤️👍

  5. I remember the outage, not because I was directly affected by it, but because I couldn’t get a hold of my parents via phone or email. I was in Australia at teachers college, I’d tried calling home several times, and no answer- it wasn’t until looking into world news that I learned of the outage!

  6. Beautifully written, Tom. Your memories and context took me back to that day too. It was one of the few years I lived in Toronto. I didn’t see the stars but reading your story, I wish I had! Your prompt of magic fits so well with your account. It is magic when a way of seeing the world changes in an instance. Thank you for sharing this and sharing it so warmly.

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