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August 14, 1999
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?
It was my very first job in Manhattan and I had been working for E.F. Hutton for approximately one month. I was very busy at work that day and had to run an errand from my office on the second floor to the Accounts Payable office on the 8th floor. I was running for the elevator when a secretary in my office called me back because I had a phone call. I was angry because of the rush I was in, but I ran back to the office for the phone. It was my husband on the other end, but at the time we were just best friends. As I began to tell him I was busy and would call him back, the lights went out and the phone went dead. The lights came on for just a second or two and then went out again for good.
I remained holding onto the phone in shock, not knowing if foul play was involved because we did on random occassions get bomb threats. What brought me back to reality was the screaming I heard coming from the elevators. I would've been in one of them if I didn't get that phone call.
The people in my office gathered their belongings and we descended down two flights of steps to the lobby of the building. Other people were walking from the top floors and had a long way to go.
Once in the lobby, I noticed the building maintenance men trying to get the emergency back-up generator going to get the elevators down, but to no avail. I heard days later that each maintenance worker had to manually pull the elevators down (some from the 20th floor).
I had a friend who offered to have me come to his house in Staten Island because all of the subways were obviously out and I lived on Long Isand. We met his wife in front of the building and it was then that we noticed the beautiful view across the water. We were at One Battery Park Plaza and as we approached the Staten Island ferry, we could see the Island lite up. It was breathtaking (like a postcard).
We took the ferry to Staten Island, I called my dad to pick me up. In the meantime we called out for pizza and listened to the news to see what was going on.
It was a fun experience, but alittle bit scary also. You couldn't see faces on the streets. My friend had a cigarette lighter he was using and that's how we navigated our way to the ferry.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Have no idea. I'm guessing that due to the weather, Con Ed was not ready for the over usage of electric.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
People not wanting to conserve.
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?
I considered both to be very significant because in 1965, I was only seven years old and I was actually the only huge blackout I had experienced up to that point. The 1977 blackout was significant and shocking because I was just adjusting to Manhattan style life and caught in the middle of the city in blackness and with no way to get home.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
I realized what I was taking for granted every day while travelling to work. I would get hot coffee, get on the LIRR to Penn Station, get on the subway to Battery Park, take an elevator up to the second floor. All was a convenience.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I was really disappointed in all the looting that went on. There was no call for the damage that had been done and I was embarrassed to call myself a New Yorker. I was always proud to live in New York and that upset me alot.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
The normal power failures are usually an inconvenience to a concentrated area, but this was the entire city of New York.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
None, except I assumed they would be upgrading their facilities and using this as a learning basis.
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
I was 7 in 1965 so I just remember jumping up and down in the street with a flashlight and yelling hooray with my friends. I also enjoyed sitting in the house with candles and gas lanterns.I can't really compare because one was from a child's perspective and one from an adults.
Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
Yes (please explain)
If yes, please explain:
Don't take the electricity for granted.
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, that's how I see it.
Story #12, The Blackout History Project, 14 August 1999, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/12/>.
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