Ohio is known for many things - most of them good. Thomas Edison was born here. So was Orville Wright (Wilbur was born in Indiana), Neil Armstrong, and John Glenn. We have our share of movie star legends calling Ohio their birthplace: Clark Gable, Doris Day, and Tyrone Power among them. We have been called the state of Presidents. But then every state has its own special people, events, and accomplishments to be proud of.
Yesterday was the anniversary of one event that we Ohioans aren't proud of. Five years ago on August 14, 2003 our First Energy Eastlake plant shut down unexpectedly--triggering a series of problems on its transmission lines which led to a cascade effect causing blackouts in Ontario, Canada and much of northeastern U.S. Though Italy's 2003 Blackout was worse, ours was the largest blackout in North American history. Hopefully, there will never be a repeat. For anyone interested, the internet has all the details and recommendations for avoiding another one.
Of course, it is of interest to me. One has to go through a blackout which lasts more than a couple of hours to truly understand its implications. We have all experienced small street blackouts and so when everything shut down at home, I went outside checking with neighbors and stores to determine its scope. Well, I found it was larger than just Lakewood or even Gr. Cleveland. Someone sitting on the apartment steps near me had a battery radio and clued me in that parts of Canada and even New York City were experiencing it as well.
It was really a surreal experience. Everything seemed eerily quiet. At home - no TV, radio, or telephone. Of course no lights or refrigeration. Outside -no traffic lights, no lights in the bars and stores, and in the evening I passed St. Cyril's Catholic Church's open doors seeing them celebrating the vigil of the Blessed Virgin's Assumption by candlelight. Shortly I would find out that my scheduled liturgy at St.Gregory's Byzantine Catholic Church for my sister was cancelled because of the blackout. However, I loved seeing a couple of parishioners in front of our church holding small bouquets of flowers.
It is believed that St. Thomas was very far away evangelizing when word came to him that Mary was dying. Arriving too late, he asked the gathered apostles to open her tomb so that he could look once more on her lovely face. Of course -when they opened the tomb, they found it empty with only the aroma of fragrant flowers perfuming the air. So now in some Byzantine Catholic churches parishioners bring flowers to church in remembrance on the feast of the Assumption.
And this feast is special to me as well, because it was the day I chose to retire from the City of Cleveland in 1996. I think anyone who has retired will always remember the last day of their employment and how much more meaningful it is if also connected to some special remembrance- mine the Assumption of Mary --NOT the Blackout of 2003.