McCook residents see friendly side of New York

Friday, August 15, 2003

A McCook couple couldn't hide their Nebraska values from a sharp-eyed New York City police sergeant during Thursday night's blackout.

J.T. and Karen Harris had just offered a young family the use of their hotel living room, when someone took note and asked where they were from.

"I knew it!" replied the sergeant, when he heard them mention Nebraska.

But even New Yorkers were "extremely friendly" during the night, J.T. said.

"Last night was very different," he said. Staying across the street from Madison Square Garden, the couple watched thousands of people milling about or trying to get home.

In the city on a buying trip for their Lots to Love chain of clothing stores and other businesses, they were in a jewelry showroom when the power grid failed over a wide area of the Northeast and Canada.

It was strange to look up at the Empire State Building to see only a couple of lights on -- "and I don't know where they came from," he said.

Karen took a prized photo, he said, of "two middle-aged women, sitting on a curb, knitting."

Police academy cadets were called in to direct traffic, J.T. said, and although they didn't yet have badges, their blue uniforms commanded respect.

People are often seen huddled around portable radios, he said, adding that he wished he had one to keep up with the latest news.

By coincidence, J.T.'s brother, Jim and wife Vicki, were in New York so Jim, a Lincoln attorney, could take a deposition.

Jim spent two hours trapped in an elevator with a couple of other men.

"It was quite frightening," J.T. said. One of the other men spoke only Spanish, and after a time, the other two determined that the man "thought he was going to die."

The three got out of the elevator safely, however, but the lack of electricity is creating other hardships.

"Getting food is a challenge," he said. So is climbing down 17 flights of stairs to the ground level, which is "a physical challenge."

They do have regular telephone service and running water, although cold showers are the order of the day.

Their daughter, Susan Broomfield of McCook, and another buyer originally planned to leave today, while J.T. and Karen, who live in Lincoln as well as McCook, were scheduled to fly out Saturday.

Those plans are up the air, so to speak, until air travel can be sorted out again.

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