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Contributed by: [name withheld]
Contributed on: July 3, 2000

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?
1965 I was a soph at Fordham University. We were playing cards in the Campus Center lounge when the power went. We quickly looked out the window but did not realize it was a blackout because the emergency generator in Fordham Hospital, next door, had come on almost immediately and the hospital was lit.

In addition it was not dark out. There was a brilliant "harvest moon" and it was a clear night so it was quite easy to see.

My friend drove me home to my apartment building. Fortunately I lived on the ground floor so I han no trouble getting to my apartment.

Later I went out with a book just to prove that the moon was bright enough to read by. This I wanted to etch in my memory for later years. I guess now is later years.

1973 My wife and I had just gotten maried in April and had bought a house, where I am still living but with a different wife. We had moved in on June 30th so we were not fully set up.

It was very hot and some friends had dropped by. We were having a few beers on the porch when the lights went out. When they didn't come right back on we all said; here we go again.

We went to a restaurant bar in the area, it's still there, and had burgers and a few beers. Unlike '65 it was dark when night fully came. Very eerie. We heard about the rioting, also unlike '65, and decided to just go to bed.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
1965 - Murphys Law plus I don't think they realized how interconnected everything was and didn't realize that a $5.00 relay in Niagra Falls could black out the East coast from NY to Canada.

1977 - No planning. They did not plan for enough electricity generation for peak loads during long hot spells. That was one really hot July.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Today - Not enough planning or preventative maintenance.

Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
1965 only

Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
1965 - Electricity was always there. A blackout of that magnitude and length wasn't imagined; at least by the 17 year old that I was. By 1977 we had suffered through years of on and off brown outs during long summer heat spells. So it was not unexpected.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
Not at all. Just exciting.

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
Pleased by the 1965 response. Saddened but not surprised by the 1977 response. It was a different world; much more different than 13 years indicate. I don't think 1965 was that different from 1952; 1973 was a different world from 1965.

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Longer and larger.

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
1965 not much. 1977 made it worse and that was not easy to do.

If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
I did this above.

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

If yes, please explain:
1965 - A warning of how interdependent we had become 1977 - We or at least Con Ed doesn't learn from previous mistakes.

Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
Yes (please explain)

If yes, please explain:
1965 NO 1977 demonstrated how volitile the cities had become.

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:
True. As I mentioned those 13 years were a world apart.

Cite as: Anonymous, Story #103, The Blackout History Project, 3 July 2000, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/103/>.
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