West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 8 | July 25 - 31, 2007

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Bricks swept into a pile last Wednesday on MacDougal St., just some of those that earlier had been scattered on the street by the lightning strike.

Lightning strike is a real shock on quiet MacDougal St.

By Lincoln Anderson and Jefferson Siegel

The torrential rain on the morning of Wed., July 18, was punctuated in the South Village with a brick-blasting lightning strike on MacDougal St.

Leonard Cecere, proprietor of Something Special, a mailbox and key-making store just south of Houston St. that is a favorite of local celebrities, was sitting on a stool by his doorway watching the downpour around 9:15 a.m. when the street was rocked by the thunderbolt.
The lightning first struck a small, semicircular, metal-spiked fence on the edge of the cornice of the former St. Anthony’s School across the street. The impact sent bricks flying down onto MacDougal St., and blew away the fence except for one lonely spike that could be seen the next day.

“I saw that bright light and then the explosion,” Cecere said on Friday. He said two women who were waiting in the store for a bus to Atlantic City jumped at the sound.

“They didn’t know what happened,” he said.

Cecere’s wife, Lucy, founder of the Caring Community, was upstairs in their apartment when she saw the lightning hit.

“It was like a ball of fire,” she said. “Everybody blocks around in this neighborhood saw the bright light.”

Leonard Cecere said the lightning then probably passed down the back of 64 MacDougal St., a residential building next door to the school building, which now houses the Cardinal Cooke Center for disabled students. The Ceceres said Ann Delilkan, a school teacher, had been typing at her computer keyboard in a basement apartment at 64 MacDougal and received a strong electrical jolt running through her hands and upper body up to the back of her head. They said she was taken to the hospital and is now O.K.

A neighbor who lives next door to Something Special also told Leonard Cecere that the lightning apparently wrecked his computer modem. While the neighbor’s modem didn’t work after the lightning hit, a new modem the man subsequently bought did work, Leonard Cecere said.

The Ceceres’ building wasn’t affected, however, Leonard Cecere said, because luckily a month earlier he had grounded its electrical system.

“I was tired of putting in new fuses all the time,” he said. “It cost me 10 grand, but it was the best investment. Most of the buildings around here, the electricity’s put in 100 years ago — most people don’t realize it.”

Ian Dutton, a Community Board 2 member who lives on Sullivan St., said the lightning strike was an event not to be forgotten.

“What really got my attention was the crackling,” he said. “Before the light, before the thunder, there was a crackling like unwrapping a present wrapped in plastic, like live electricity crackles. Then the flash and the explosion of thunder — it shook everything.”

By the time Dutton and his wife, Shea, had walked the block over to the scene, police already had closed the street to traffic.

“There were several people from the neighborhood surveying the damage: shattered bricks strewn all over the street for 100 feet. It was clear that they didn’t just fall,” he said. “They must have exploded in all directions for them to have scattered so far and be so fragmented.”

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesperson for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, said that the school building didn’t suffer any major damage in the lightning hit and that, most important, no one was hurt.

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