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Contributed by: [name withheld]
Contributed on: August 6, 1999

Which blackout(s) did you experience?

In your own words, tell the story of your experience in the blackout(s). Try to recall specific events and the people, places, and things involved; also include more general reactions, images adn last impressions?
I was a junior at Paterson State College in Wayne, NJ. I lived in a dormatory situated high on a hill and when I sat at my desk at night I could see the New York skyline through the one large window in the room. I sat down at my desk after returning from supper, got my books and then remembered that it was my parents' 30th anniversary. As I stood up to go to the phone to call them, I glanced out the window and something was wrong. The usual bright lights of the city and the top of the Empire State Building were not there. I stared for a moment and then went to make my call. Only while speaking to my mother did I learn about the blackout.

The other blackout in 1977 hit closer to home. By then I was married and had a 3 year old daughter. My husband was off from work and the three of us went to visit his grandparents. They were in the cellar doing the wash when we got there. Soon, the blackout hit. The washer stopped, the lights went out, no TV.. we spent the afternoon wringing out the wash by hand.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
I have no real idea why they happened except the one in 1977 was in the summer and there could have been too much electric used with the air conditioners going.

Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Both were significant

Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
They disrupted the every day lives of many people.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
Actually, all they did was ruin my evening view of the city and wrinkle up my hands wringing out the wash.

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
It was a bit frightening when I heard the extent of the blackout.

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
It was certainly a much more major event.

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?

Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?

Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?

How did the blackout(s) affect your daily reliance on electricity?
No effect / same reliance

This is how the story goes: In November of 1965 the lights went out in New York and crime rates temporarily dropped; there were widespread reports of extraordinary cooperation and trust between strangers caught together in the power failure. In July of 1977, little more than a decade later, the lights went out again in New York. This time, a devastating wave of looting and arson broke out. Does this story ring true to you? Explain why or why not:
Yes. It's like the difference between day and night. Also, the seasons were different. The heat of July makes some people crazy.

Cite as: Anonymous, Story #1, The Blackout History Project, 6 August 1999, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/1/>.
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