The greatest of the 'all-time great' first-person stories have to be those told by people who were involved in The Great Northeast Power Blackout of 1965. I'm impelled to add mine for no reason than to add luster to the others.
I, fortunately or unfortunately, slept through the entire thing.
The GNPB struck New York City... struck the whole Northeast... at about 5:15pm on November 9th 1965. At the time I was a student at Pace College, 41 Park Row in lower Manhattan. My mother and her second husband, Eddie, were on a cruise to Bermuda at the time and I was left to my own devices.
The afternoon of November 9th I had two things I didn't really want: a developing cold and a Biology Lab final exam. When we started the Lab final the instructor told us that as soon as we were finished we could leave, and as soon as I was finished I did.
I recall swapping material at my locker in the basement then heading straight for the subway. I felt terrible; my head was pounding and my nose was stuffy and I was developing a fever and... I caught a train headed into Brooklyn, a 4th Avenue Local most likely, and got to the 45th Street station very close to 5:15. I have always suspected that the train I was on might not have made it to 53rd Street, the next stop.
Oddly, the section of Brooklyn that I called 'home' was served in an electrical sense by a small independent generating company on Staten Island, probably under contract to Con Ed, and they never got hit by the blackout. Consequently, I had power all night long if I had wanted or needed it.
When I arrived home, I made something simple and small to eat for dinner and turned on the TV to catch the news. There was nothing but snow on the TV and none of the radio stations were broadcasting either. For some reason I didn't find this odd; it was just another reason not to stay up. I had a quick bite to eat and went upstairs to bed, fell asleep, and awoke the next morning to a perfectly normal world.