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June 26, 2000
Which blackout(s) did you experience?
1977 (New York City Blackout)
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?
At the time of the 1965 blackout I was living in Hillcrest,(Spring Valley)New York which is on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River and North of Bergen County, New Jersey. It was my day to pick up the children at Hebrew School in Pearl River, New York. I left home to travel East to Middletown Road and then South on Middletown Road to Pearl River. Suddenly the most interesting thing happened I noticed that was a step ahead of lights going out all around me. Traffic lights were not working. Lederle Laboratories had their home facilities on Middletown Road in Pearl River and it was an eerie sight to see the lights going out there. I finally picked up my children and proceeded home in the dark. My daughter, age 13, was home alone and petrified. Then my concern was for my husband who was to return home from White Plains over the Tappan Zee bridge. This was a long, trying ride for him and his secretary and they finally arrived home many hours later. My first reaction was one of awe and I blamed Orange and Rockland for the power failure but when I looked around and listened to the radio, I think a feeling of fear overcame me. I was very relieved to be home with all my children and very thankful for the kerosene lanterns that we had found in the house when we purchased it.
I am sorry that I do not remember too many details but my brother was stuck in an elevator in downtown New York and eventually spent the night at Washington Taverns in New York Wall Street area.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
overloading and aged equipment
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
It was a first and also alerted us as to what could happen if we had one again. I do think that I personally was better prepared. In addition to more lanterns, I purchased a battery operated radio.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
I do think it brought out family a bit closer together. My sons were concerned about my daughter being alone at home and we were all concerned about my husband coming home.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I was afraid. I did not know what to anticipate and how long it was going to last. My concern was food for the children and standing as a sentinel at the refrigerator so that it was not opened too much
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
No. At a normal blackout the auxiliary police are usually out to direct traffic at bad intersections. The blackout was so massive that they could not handle traffic.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
None. My utility company was Orange and Rockland and I thought more and more how effective or ineffective they were.
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
Having survived the 1965 blackout and my family being grown a bit, I was not as concerned when I heard and saw the 1977 blackout. I guess that I was living in a false sense of security.
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?
Became less reliant
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:
It is a long time ago, but I do think that the instances of looting, robberies and crime did not increase because of the blackout. As years went on in New York the rate of crime increased and I think if there was any more during the blackout it was because of the normal increase in the trend
Story #101, The Blackout History Project, 26 June 2000, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/101/>.
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