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Scenes From Downtown San Diego During The Outage

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Aired 9/9/11

Some workers wondered if the city was under attack, while others had to wait patiently for hours in dark elevators to get rescued.

Councilwoman Sherri Lightner and members of her staff try to extract a colleague stuck in an elevator during Thursday's countywide power outage.
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Above: Councilwoman Sherri Lightner and members of her staff try to extract a colleague stuck in an elevator during Thursday's countywide power outage.

— A few minutes before 4 p.m., workers began trickling out of San Diego’s City Hall and other tall downtown buildings. Many headed for their cars, eager to get on the road before traffic became too bad. Others decided to wait it out, hoping things would calm down. They were just getting word that power was out in all of San Diego County.

Art Arvisu decided to stick it out for a while. He stood on a pedestrian bridge over First Avenue as cars sat gridlocked below. Arvisu is a plan checker in the San Diego’s Development Services Department. The power went out as he was helping someone at a computer. He says the first few moments of the blackout were tense.

“I think people were nervous because the date was close to 9/11. I kind of braced myself. I thought there would be an explosion or something,” Arvisu said. “But there was no panic or anything. There was just that brief 10 seconds, let’s say, of not knowing what happened.”

Arvisu’s building is just one of many tall office towers downtown. Across the way, Deputy City Attorney Landy Spencer Daly was working several stories up. September 11th came to mind as well as she walked down the stairs and out of the dark building.

“Going down the stairwell—you know this is nothing. It’s just a power outage. But it was creepy,” Spencer Daly said. “And you know, I’m thinking, I can’t even image how scary and awful that must have been for the people actually in New York on September 11th. This is nothing.”

Spencer Daly and her colleagues decided to kill some time on the patio of a nearby restaurant. They unwound with a drink as they waited for traffic to thin out.

But in a nearby elevator, water department employee Lisa Goehring wasn’t going anywhere. She was on her way back to work after a meeting when the parking garage elevator she was riding in stopped and the lights went out. She says she soon received several text messages letting her know about the power outage

“So then, it was just like, I gotta be patient, wait it out,” Goehring said. “And…help eventually arrived.”

The first assistance was from City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner and her staff who used several crowbars to try to pry the elevator doors apart. The fire department eventually got there and rescued Goehring. She emerged after nearly two hours in the elevator to cheers from Lightner and her staff.

Goehring took a drink of water, thanked the firefighters who got her out, gave Lightner a hug and took a few moments to sit in the sun.

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