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November 10, 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 a 17 year old 'country' girl who had arrived in the big city of New York on July 1, 1965. I came to spend the summer with my oldest sister (Bonnie Jean) before heading off for college. Needless to say, my summer vacation turned into a 20 year stint.
I am from a small town in Georgia (Waycross) and had never heard nor seen anything or anyone like the people and places in NYC. I was in awe and afraid at the same time. Well, on the day of November 9, 1965 (one day before my 18th birthday), I was lounging on the sofa in the den listening to Frankie Crooker on the radio and waiting for my sister to get home from the barber/beauty shop. All of a sudden the lights in the apartment blinked and the song playing on the radio skipped. At first I thought nothing of it but, when they blinked again and again and THEN did not come back on I headed for the door. Bam, I ran smack dab into the door, knocking myself down in the process. I quickly jumped up, found the door knob, unlocked the door and headed for the streets. Not knowing but one or two people on the block, I didn't know where I was going or who I was going to meet up with. One place I knew I was not going into was the cemetery across the street. Yes, a cemetery directly accross the street. But by the time I got half ways down the block I saw my sister (still wearing the smock they tie around your neck) and her barber running towards me. I felt like a baserunner trying to steal 3rd base and did so. I WAS SAFE. It was at that point that my heart started beating again and I knew that I could survive anything in NYC.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Too many people connected to one main generator.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
An under estimation by power companies of the amount of current that will be used by customers, AND old 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-time experience for me.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
It frightened me. Fortunately, we did not lose any perishable foods.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I was in complete amazement and bewilderment. I never imagined or thought that something like that could or would occur.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
After surviving the blackout of '65, any power failures after that was a piece of cake.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
I thought that someone(s) in high positions were not doing their job(s) properly. That they were hedging on repairs/updating equipment and every paying customer should have been given some sort of rebate/compensation.
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
Yes (please explain)
If yes, please explain:
I thought that if it could happen in NYC, that it could feasibly happen anywhere. After that night, I stocked up on enough candles to open a store and to this day I keep a house full of candles in every room in the house.
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 could ring true. Afterall, the '65 blackout was shocking to everyone but, by the time it happened again in '77, enough stories had been passed around and the people were experienced veterans. I'm sure the ones who looted said if it happens again that that is what they would do and, that is what they did.
Story #121, The Blackout History Project, 10 November 2000, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/121/>.
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