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Contributed by: Sandy D-M
Contributed on: July 24, 2002

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 was 8 years old at the time and it was a really hot sweltering night and we were all sitting out on the stoop (East New York, Brooklyn). My mother asked me to go upstairs and take a shower and after I was done I was to call up another sibling until we were all showered and ready for bed. As I washed my hair, the lights went out and I thought it was my sister playing a joke on me. I opened the bathroom window, oblivous to all the lights in the city being out because my eyes were closed and yelled down to my mom, "Julie turned out the lights on me." She yells back, "stay right there." and as I wash the soap out of my eyes I fell out of the tub. It was a night that I will always remember.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Don't recall.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Inability of the power companies to be proactive. The power companies should monitor weather reports and little more closely.

Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
1977 only

Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
Hearing about the looting that was taking place was extremely scary. I remember that at the time, my mother did not have a garage for her car and I kept thinking they were either going to smash her car or steal it. I also remember my mother sitting by the living room window most of the night so that she could keep an eye on her car. It was her only means of transportation and our only luxury item.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
For the first time in my life I learned what fear was. Before that I was just a happy kid.

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
Don't remember.

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
I have never experienced another black out or power failure in the U.S.

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
None, I was a child at the time. I didn't even realize Con Ed provided our electricity.

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

If yes, please explain:
The larger frightening picture in my mind was one of how humans could become so evil and destroy their surroundings.

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

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:
Yes, it does ring true.

Cite as: Sandy D-M, Story #177, The Blackout History Project, 24 July 2002, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/177/>.
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