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August 15, 1999
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 working as a building manager at the time, and had just left the 46-story building I worked in when New York City went black. I rushed back and found that 20 of our 26 elevators had stopped somewhere above the ground floor. Where were they and how many people were trapped inside? The only way to find out was to use the elevator intercom. This system is powered by a 6-volt battery intended for just such an emergency. At the first call, the battery went dead. That did it. Now we were out of luck. We needed a battery badly, but none were available in the building.
It suddenly occurred to me that cars were parked all along the curb, next to the building. "Every automobile has a battery." I said to myself. With the help of one of our mechanics, out came a battery from a 1958 Plymouth. I hurriedly scribbled a note and stuck it under the windshield wiper. The fact that the owner - or a policeman - might show up and clobber me never entered my mind. The people trapped in those elevators, engulfed in total darkness and possibly in hysteria, were my main concern for the moment.
Inside the building, the elevator mechanic worked feverishly with flashlights, found leads for the battery and then hooked enough resistance into them to use the 6-volt system. Presto! We were in business. We communicated through the system and learned that only one elevator had passengers in it, two men and a woman. We quickly told them the situation - and that help would soon be on the way - and to please keep calm.
The elevator was stuck close to the 27th floor in a blind shaft oppposite a washroom. This made rescue a little harder. But our telephones were working and we called the fire department. The firemen arrived shortly, walked up 27 floors and, after breaking a large mirror in the washroom, broke through the wall. Since the elevator car was stopped, the passengers could open the doors from the inside. They calmly climbed out through the hole in the wall, with the firemen illuminating the way. That solved our immediate problem. I later had to pay $30.45 for the car battery, but it was well worth it and I'd do it again.
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
It affected the operation of the buildings I managed.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
Honestly, I took it in stride. Having gone through a war, this was just another emergency that I was trained to be prepared for.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
It was on a major larger scale and more troublesome for us to deal with.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
These things happen...
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
Story #14, The Blackout History Project, 15 August 1999, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/14/>.
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