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June 30, 2000
Which blackout(s) did you experience?
1965 (Great Northeast 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?
I was 21 years old and working at a major law firm as a secretary. We were on the 26th floor of 500 5th Ave. I was getting ready to go home for the evening and all of a sudden the lights dimmed and then went out. We all thought it was just our office. I looked towards my boss' office and could see through the window that everything was going dark. One of the lawyer's then came out. He had been on the telephone and said that NY was having a power failure. We all (there were about 50 of us in the office)starting talking at once. Some people tried to use the phone at first some people could get some calls out. Some calls came in, after awhile, there was no phone service. Some of the girls were frightened (I know I was). This was about 5:15PM. We sat down and waited. Around 7:00PM one of the young lawyers came in and told me that "Gabe was here". Gabe was the guy I had been dating for about a month at that time and I thought he was teasing me. Lo and behold, I turned around and there was Gabe. His friend had a car in the city and Gabe, unbeknownst to me, had walked up the 26 floors to come and take me home. We walked down the 26 floors and into the friend's car. There were 6 of us in the car. It took forever to get out of New York. It was an eerie feeling driving through NYC. But everyone seemed friendly and everything was very orderly. There were cops on every corner directing traffic (people and cars). It seemed that people were helping each other as best they could. We finally got to Astoria around Midnight and Gabe got his car and drove me over the Triboro Bridge to Upper Manhattan where I lived. Looking towards the skyline was weird but beautiful as there were no lights on. When we got to my apartment, we walked up 13 flights to my apartment and he then drove all the way back to Astoria where he lived. After he left, my mom said to me, I hope you're going to marry this guy.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
As far as I could tell at that time Con Ed was not prepared for the accident that happened.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Usually some major malfunction
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
The thought of a major city such as NY being shut down was extremely significant. It could have been a major disaster. Thank God, it wasn't
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
Initially, I was extremely frightened. At first we didn't know what had caused it. Many of us thought it might be a nuclear war or an invasion by USSR. I, also, saw how everyone cooperated with each other. On a more personal level I saw the real character of the person I was dating at the time.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I could not really understand how it could happen. After all, this was NYC.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
No comparison. "Normal" power failures are just annoyances and not frightening
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
I felt that they should have been better prepared. I, also, hoped they would then prepare so that it would not happen again.
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
I experienced both. The 1965 I experienced personally as I was directly affected by it. The 1977, I was married and living in LI and was not directly affected by this.
Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
Yes (please explain)
If yes, please explain:
Well, to be honest, it was purely personal. I saw the type of person that Gabe was and married him in 1967.
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:
This story rings true. As far as 1965 was concerned I saw it for myself as we drove through NY. As far as 1977, I ready about the arson and looting in the paper.
Story #102, The Blackout History Project, 30 June 2000, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/102/>.
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