My alarm clock was blinking an erroneous time, but I ignored it; I had just taken a much-appreciated nap, and I needed to get back to a yeast cell biology conference at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. I was staying 10 miles away at a Vincentian seminary that housed students like me. My fan was running, and my cellular phone recharger was pulsing red. I had no idea that the power was coming from a backup generator.

I was probably one of a few people of about 50 million, from Canada to New Jersey, Michigan to Massachusetts, who were, at the moment, unaffected by the biggest blackout in North American history. But soon I would be, and I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

Driving through town as the sun was setting, I noticed that no stores were open, no traffic lights were operating, and little traffic was on the road....

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