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Contributed by: [name withheld]
Contributed on: August 18, 1999

Which blackout(s) did you experience?

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?
The Great Northesat Blackout of 1965 ocurred when I was 12 years old. For about a half hour or so before the lights went out, my mother (who was in the kitchen fixing dinner)kept yelling at us to "stop fooling around with the TV". I remember that we were watching a monster movie (can't remember which one) on Channel 7/WABC-TV/NY. Finally the lights went out and we were left in the dark. I think we probably at dinner by candlelight (thank goodness for those Catholic votive light candles!). The thing that I probably remember most from the 1965 blackout is that we were excused from handing in our homework the next day!

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?
The 1965 blackout was significant because it was TOTAL--no one in the northeastern US had lights. No one knew what had happened. I am sure that many adults thought that it was "the big one"--that perhaps the Russians had knocked out the power. The 1977 blackout was less significant to me personally because it only affected the 5 boroughs of NYC, and not Long Island where I lived. However, by then I was working for a bank based in NYC. We could not access customer information or do any transactions, so we were "closed" for the day. Our LI customers could not understand why they couldn't get their money or make deposits

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
See above

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
More frightening. The 1965 blackout was frightening perhaps because of the enormity of it, and also because of the Cold War. I think we were more afraid then

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
They should have been more attuned to customer needs and requirements (1977 blackout)

If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
In 1965, no one in the entire region had lights. There was also little or no looting going on, quite unlike the 1977 blackout. Maybe it had to do with the time of year (fall vs the height of the summer) or perhaps the world was a different place then. The 1977 blackout affected my work life, and not my home life too much. I do remember that when the NY tv stations went off the air, that our cable company switched to the CT and Philadelphia stations. The CT station anchors if I remember correctly, were in their glory--they had finally made it to TV in the Big Apple

Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?

Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
Yes (please explain)

If yes, please explain:
During the 1977 blackout, the area in which I now teach (Bushwick, Brooklyn) was overrun with looters and rioters. The neighborhood has never been the same. It caused many of the long time residents to move to "greener pastures". Now, over 22 years later, the neighborhood is slowly coming alive again, with new shops and housing construction.

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:
Sounds true to me (see comments above)

Cite as: Anonymous, Story #15, The Blackout History Project, 18 August 1999, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/15/>.
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