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Contributed by: John Leavitt
Contributed on: July 21, 2002

Which blackout(s) did you experience?
Other (please specify)

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 was walking across 14th when I noticed it. A Huge cloud of thick black smoke rising from the east end. I pointed it out to the street vendor I was getting coffee from, he said "What? Are they hitting the U.N now?" and turned on the radio. At that point, no one seemed to know what was going on. Infact, few people in St. Marks seemed to notice the smoke. I headed back to my apartment on the west end, and thats when things got werid. The traffic lights where out and what few people left on the streets where on cell phones. Many stores had closed or put gaurds out front, but one had a "50% Off, No Power Sale!" sign. Overhead, military jets rocketed across, people assumed the worst. People gathered around cars with radios trying to get information. I got home, but the stairway had no lights. Walking up 8 flights in the dark is not a comfortable experience. Luckly, a porter with a flashlight was taking people up. At home, the pumping station had no power, so the water was out. Outside, people took it on themselves to direct traffic and hand out flashlights. The traffic uptown was congested, and the subways where at full capacity due to all the downtown lines being down. But I made it uptown to wait out the power outage. Amazing that nothing happened during the light, that order was maintained by citizens alone. A great city this is.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Accident, common and preventable.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Most of them appear to be mechincal failure due to high power useage in the summer.

Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Both were significant

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Surreal, disorienting.

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
They worked as fast as they could.

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

If yes, please explain:
It showed that the citizens of New York are a amazing, supplying order when something goes wrong. Centuries away from the riots and choas of 76.

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

How did the blackout(s) affect your daily reliance on electricity?
Other (please specify)

If other, please specify:
I buy more things with batteries,

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, during the 70s the city was in a profound nadir. Crime, poverty and disary where at record highs. It makes sense that it was a catalyst for destruction.

Cite as: John Leavitt, Story #176, The Blackout History Project, 21 July 2002, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/176/>.
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