[Update: This post stared as a comment on this " post at Street Prophets...]
Living in the San Francisco Bay Area as I do, I remember the Lome Prieta Earthquake in '89, and then the Oakland Hills Firestorm a couple years later.
The power being out seems to pull back the electronic veil behind which we hide, and which (I've come to realize) keeps us isolated from one another. Without the constant blaring of television and radio, my city neighborhood seems to revive after a long slumber - suddenly neighbors are talking to each other, learning each others' names (this after living 20 feet away from each other for 10 years).
You can hear the neighborhood - without the immersive electronic din that characterizes life in early 21st Century America, people become the only sound you can hear. Everyone pulls together. The neighborhood suddenly becomes a village, a true community. It is a startling transformation, which happens instantly.
It's always struck me in these situations, "why aren't people doing this all the time? This is actually pretty cool... "