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August 19, 1999
Which blackout(s) did you experience?
1977 (New York City 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 had just turned 17 years old that June and was looking forward to getting my driver's license. When the lights went out I can remember all the neighbors coming out and all of us kids thinking it was so cool. We all were hanging out on the stoops til 1:00-2:00 in the morning. It was so hot no one relished the idea of going to sleep in a hot house. Everybody was outside late, even the little kids. It was like one big party. A couple of my girlfriends who lived on the block and myself wanted to go walk around the neighboorhood, but our parents wouldn't let us. That whole Son of Sam thing. My neighbors were campers and had a few Coleman lanterns and my father had a huge flashlight and we lit candles. The next day I took my road test. None of the street lights worked. My instructor was tired from being up most of the night due to the heat and he gave me the easiest road test and of course, I passed.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
What I remember was the circuits overloaded due to everyone using their a/c's because it was so hot. Apparently ConEd couldn't handle it.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
I was a 17 year old girl who had no power to blow dry my hair. That was significant to me then. Along with the looting and the crime that was taking place.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
Besides not being able to blow dry my hair, it was cool. I was young.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I didn't watch the news.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
It was scarier because EVERYWHERE was blacked out. Supermarkets,hospitals,traffic lights, etc.
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:
I don't know about the 1965 blackout, but I do know the '77 was very wild. People were driving up and down the blocks, beeping their horns. More kids were out drinking and getting drunk and doing stupid things.
Story #16, The Blackout History Project, 19 August 1999, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/16/>.
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