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July 14, 2002
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?
I lived through both blackouts.
At the time of the 1965 occurrence I was 16 years old and living with my family in Buffalo, NY. I have no recollection of how that blackout affected us.
The 1977 event, when I was 28, I recall very well. I was living on 91st Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan, working a full-time, 40-hour-per-week government desk job in Rego Park, Queens, and performing a major role in an outdoor professional production of Shakespeare’s "Twelfth Night," six performances per week, in Philadelphia, commuting via Amtrak between the two cities.
That night I had completed a performance, headed over to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, and gotten on the train to New York at maybe 10 PM. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I was dead tired as usual.
As the train approached Newark I began to hear muffled chatter amongst the passengers and conductors. Something was definitely amiss. Finally, a loudspeaker announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, bus transportation will be provided to all passengers from Newark to Manhattan.”
At Newark station, which, as I recall, did have power, we were all herded off the train and corralled into buses. I sat close enough to the front windshield to watch as we approached New York and to see, where one would normally see the skyline, nothing. I remember that the driver eventually stopped the bus, announced that we had arrived at Pennsylvania Station, and asked us to disembark. The interior of the bus was fully lit. Getting off, I followed a woman. I remember that as a stepped off the bus, the woman in front of me instantly became invisible.
It became clear that the subways weren’t running, so I like everyone else, scrambled to get a cab. I don’t recall that it took very long. We headed off to the upper east side. The ride was kind of scary, since the traffic lights weren’t functioning, and all drivers were making right-of-way rules up as they went along. I don't recall witnessing any looting along the way. The cab stopped at 90th and Second. The cabbie was decent enough not to jack up the price beyond what the meter said. I got out and again was plunged into pitch black. Walking across Second Avenue was relatively easy and a true challenge, as there were few car headlights to guide me or to menace me. Trying to find the door of my apartment building was the hardest. I groped with both hands across the fronts of the buildings, trying to match what my hands felt with my memory of which storefronts were in what order. Finally I found what I though was my building, which I confirmed by fitting my key into the lock.
I groped my way up to the fourth floor, unlocked the door, immediately found a votive candle and a lighter, undressed, and went to bed. I remember, as I blew out the candle (in lieu of turning off an electric lamp), thinking, “This is just like the pioneers did.”
The next morning the phone worked. I called the office and was told that work had been cancelled for the day. In other words, there was no reason for me to come home to Manhattan -- I could have remained in Philadelphia that night!
Later in the day, when the trains were once again running out of Penn Station, I headed down to Philly to do yet another performance of "Twelfth Night" that evening.
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Neither was significant
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?
Became less reliant
Story #174, The Blackout History Project, 14 July 2002, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/174/>.
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