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December 23, 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 14 years old, and had just finished a swimming session at the Grand Concourse YM-YWHA in the Bronx. As we were drying off in the locker room the lights got dimmer, then went out... we figured that a fuse had blown somewhere, but when we got out of the lockers the attendant told us the whole building was dark. There were folks with flashlights showing us the way out and there was a lot of giggling and running around on the girtls locker room side. We guys briefly wondered what opportunities this might present, but being only 14 we headed out the door.
I was amazed that the lights outside were out as well... none of the streetlamps or the traffic lights were working. It was still twilight, if I remember correctly, so there was some light. As I made my way home I tried directing traffic at one corner near my house on Sherman Avenue and 165th street... it was fun, and the drivers actually seemed to appreciate it.
When I got home folks were listening to car radios all over the street, and that was when I learned that it was more than just NYC that was affected. We wondered whether it was a bit of sabotage (still deep in the cold war), but enjoyed the fact that we might get to miss some school. Unfortuinately, the power came back on before we woke up in the morning.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Too much demand associated with a mechanical breakdown.
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?
They truly reflected the general attitudes of the citizens of the city at those times... hopeful in 1965 (Mayor John Lindsay and the possibility of reviving Camelot), and angry in 1977 (cuts in funding, bad political mess).
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
Not much... in 1965 I was only 14, in 1977 I was living in Long Island and it didn't affect me directly.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
It turned it into more of an adventure.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
More interesting. Normal power failures make you think of what you're missing, the big blackout makes you think more of how other folks are coping.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
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?
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. I was there.
Story #126, The Blackout History Project, 23 December 2000, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/126/>.
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