It wasn't all chaos and angst across the nation's great powerless swath, as thousands of people took a break from life's hectic pace and paused to enjoy the lighter side of darkness.
In New York City, from Greenwich Village (search) to midtown, a festival spirit filled the air. Along 6th Avenue, people packed the sidewalks and spilled into the street. Candle-toting crowds gathered around street musicians, joining in song and swaying to the sounds.
A police officer outside Port Authority (search) bus terminal directed traffic with a maestro's moves, saying "Thanks very much for waiting, I appreciate it," to brazen jaywalkers and then mouthing exaggerated obscenities to the giggling crowds waiting patiently for their turn.
The good vibes stretched well beyond New York: In Lansing, Mich., Cooley Law School student Anne Block celebrated with some classmates at a bar after finishing an exam by the little sunlight that filtered through the classroom window.
"We were taking an exam and boom, the lights went out," Block said. "But I was determined to finish. I kept writing. I wanted an 'A'."
In the southern Connecticut town of Haddam, Jeannine and Kevin Wiese discovered a new way to heat bottles for their 9-month old baby: on the grill. Joanne Margnelli read gardening magazines by the light of lanterns. "And I've been enjoying quite a few cold beers," she said.
On New York's tony Park Avenue (search), civilians, bathed in tail-light red, helped direct traffic.
Edna Nassimi, a jeweler who had closed her nearby shop, applauded their efforts. "Bravo" she said. "It's something — in this heat — it's something magical."
In Times Square (search), a man in a charcoal-gray suit entertained a crowd with an impromptu standup comedy routine. Surrounded by traffic, he held up a piece of paper hand lettered with "Long Island," and thumbed theatrically in some direction.
"I'm thinking out of the box!" said David Eisenberg.
"You're also pointing south," retorted passer-by Stuart Blaustein. "You want to go east. Or else Long Island becomes even longer."
In Brooklyn, a man hawking sparkly, battery-powered balls shouted "Be seen! Be seen!" Raucous laughter ensued when the pitch drew a passerby's snarky reply: "Be shot at!"
"It's like a rock concert," said Maria Drattel as she stepped off the ferry from Weehawken, N.J., into a thick crowd of commuters. People immediately beckoned paramedics when one woman fainted, and five officers carted another woman into a police van after she apparently suffered a seizure.
Observing a ferry worker with a megaphone attempting crowd control, Drattel quipped: "We have Moses over here trying to part the Red Sea."