As Sen. Ted Cruz endured the torments of public scorn on Thursday—outed by fellow passengers on his way to a warm Cancún vacation, as millions of fellow Texans suffered from freezing temperatures and a catastrophic electricity failure—I had a sudden uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach: There but for the grace of God go I. Or at least someone I used to work for.
It was Sunday, February 9, 1969, and New York Mayor John Lindsay was in the middle of a tough fight for re-election. I was working as his speechwriter at the time. The Yale-educated mayor from the tony East Side had his share of political baggage already, with many Brooklyn and Queens voters convinced he was too “Manhattan-centric.” That day had a typically bleak midwinter forecast, a mix of rain and slush. Instead, New York got hammered with what became known as the Blizzard of 1969. Fifteen inches of snow pounded the city, falling with particular force in East Queens. A combination of factors—light work crews on a Sunday, budget cutbacks, snowdrifts high enough to block the plows—left neighborhoods trapped for days.