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December 22, 2001
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?
In the 1965 blackout, I was at home in Borough Park, Brooklyn and I was about 9 years old. I don't remember us losing power in the house, but my father was on the subway on his way home from work. He was stuck and delayed for a very long time. I remember being very worried about him, but he finally made it home in one piece.
In the 1977 blackout, I was at my friend Maria's house in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. We were sitting on the stoop, drinking lemonade and trying to stay cool. We went in the house to get something and all the lights flickered. After a few seconds, they all went out. We thought it was just our house, but then we looked down the block, and everyone's lights were out.
I remember people in the neighborhood really trying to help each other out. For instance, my father and others were directing traffic, since the traffic lights were out.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
I think the 1977 blackout happened because it was so hot that summer, that the demand for power was too draining of the electrical supply.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
There is too much demand for power.
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?
I think one of the things that happened was that people rose to the occasion and tried to help each other. On the other hand, there was also a lot of looting and crime. I did not see any of that in my neighborhood, though.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
I felt closer to my friends and family, and it was a shared experience. They were also frightening to a certain extent. No one knew how long they would last, and at first we didn't even know what was going on.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
When I found out there had been so much crime, it surprised me and made me feel sad.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
The blackouts were much more intense, and we lost a lot of food. Also, there were stores in the neighborhood that lost money.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
Not very much.
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
In the 1965 blackout, we did not lose power in our house, but in the 1977 one, we did. I think overall, there was less crime during the 1965 blackout.
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:
Although I read that these were the events in 1977, it was not my personal experience. In my neighborhood, people helped each other and cooperated.
Story #154, The Blackout History Project, 22 December 2001, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/154/>.
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