When the great black-out of 2003 struck, we knew immediately that we'd be ripping up our cover to crash a special report. But first, we had to worry about how to put out a magazine with no electricity. Like 50 million other Americans, we lost our power shortly after 4 p.m. on Thursday. Staffers calmly made their way down darkened stairwells, heading to hotels or home on foot, and waited for the lights to go back on. But by late morning on Friday, our block on West 57th Street still wasn't back up. With less than 36 hours left before our Saturday deadline, we couldn't afford to waste more time. So some 60 editors, writers, art directors, photo and makeup staff piled into buses and headed to our emergency site in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, where they produced everything in this issue except the cover story. "Usually, we scramble the jets," quipped President Harold Shain, citing our favorite in-house expression for jumping on a big news story. "This week we scrambled the buses."
By Saturday morning, we were back in a recharged Manhattan, closing our 31-page package on the biggest power failure in North American history. In our lead story, Michael Hirsh and Daniel Klaidman examine exactly what happened, who was to blame and how our antiquated, overloaded electrical grid leaves us open to future crises or terror attacks. Daniel McGinn and Keith Naughton tote up the (thankfully limited) economic damage. Jerry Adler, the author of some of our most moving accounts of New York after 9/11, writes the mostly heartening story of how the city coped this time. Director of Photography Simon Barnett and his tireless staff assembled the powerful photos, including Ilkka Uimonen's haunting black-and-white images of life in the dark.
But bylines and photo credits don't begin to convey the teamwork that went into this issue. Scores of NEWSWEEKers pitched in to do whatever was needed--from Ignacio Kleva, who remade the book dozens of times, to Barbara DiVittorio, who slept in the office to handle logistics, to Peter Schleissner, who manned our only working phone for several hours on Friday. By the time I came in from vacation to help, Jon Meacham had led the march to Mountain Lakes and back and expertly marshaled all our forces for the Saturday close. Jon is fond of quoting Churchill, and is about to publish a book on his relationship with FDR. In the eye of the storm last week, he put on a performance worthy of his hero.