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Contributed by: WILLIAM E. BUCKMAN
Contributed on: February 11, 2007

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?
Luckily, I was on the ground floor of the Abecrombie&Fitch building at 45th & Madison where I was an employee in the athletic dept. Thinking the lights would come on momentarily,I,along with some other fun loving employees, went over to a bar near grand central station to wait out the darkness. artie b. in our group, always good for a wisecrack, said his watch stopped which got a big laugh. noone was laughing after about an hour though. I lived in the village with my wife and 2 year old daughter, so I decided to get on the fifth ave. bus to go down to washington square, and then walk in the blackness to 72 bedford st. where we lived. I thought about the people trapped in subways and in skyscrapers, and realized that I was very lucky. During the bus ride down to the village it was uncanny how many people pulled together to direct traffic, help others, etc etc. there was no looting or purse snatcing that i can remember, and i couldn't get over the extemperaneous effort that so many nyc citizens put forth in this out of the woodwork emergency. My wife had stepped it up a notch too, as she had broiled some chicken in our GAS oven. (lucky again) Digressing, the walk from washington square was a real adventure. I literally held my hand out in front of me to keep from bumping into people. I have never seen such utter darkness, except in a cavern. A self proclaimed " policeman " stopped traffic with a flashlight so I, along with others, could cross over. ( thank you whoever you are ) Once across I stopped at the liquor store I frequented. The proprietor was only letting in the people he knew. He had one hand on the sliding metal gate just in case a thirsty looter came in.
The lights finally came on the NEXT DAY. That's when the true impact of the blackout hit home. People in subways trapped. Some had to spend the night in elevators and stairwells. Hotels had no rooms left, so they opened up the lobbys to the public. The whole thing was a nightmare.
Oddly, over in n.j. the lights were burning brightly, as the faulty grid spared those west of the hudson.
Overload i guess

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
This is a technical question that I can't answer.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Overload

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

Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
It was the first one of it's kind and it brought out the best in the citizenry of nyc.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
see 1.2See

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
see 1.2

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
No comparrison.
I'm living in va. beach va. now and there have been numerous power failures, but nothing compares to the 1965 nyc blackout at rush hour.

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
Sometimes things have to happen in order for people not to be complacent.

Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
No

Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
No

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, although I didn't experience the 1977 blackout. Perhaps the degenerates in our society thought of 1977 as an opportunity lost in 1965

Cite as: WILLIAM E. BUCKMAN, Story #1448, The Blackout History Project, 11 February 2007, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/1448/>.
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