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Contributed by: Mike Bobrik
Contributed on: July 30, 2002

Which blackout(s) did you experience?
1965 (Great Northeast 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?
As David Barry would say, I am not making this up.
My father worked nights and my mother worked days. We tried to have dinner together usually around 5:30 - 6PM. I'm doing my chemistry homework in my room in the late afternoon and my Dad is starting dinner. The lights go on and off. I go into the kitchen and Dad is looking at the plug on the rotisserie. He had plugged it in when the lights flickered, so he's looking for frayed wire, etc. It looks OK, so he plugs it in again, and immediately all the lights go out. He unplugs the rotisserie, gets a flashlight, grumble, grumble, gets a fuse, walks to the fusebox (in the kitchen), and gets a glimpse out the kitchen window. "Holy shit! I blew out the whole neighborhood!"

Well, we eventually turned on our transistor radio, and found out the news. My mom got home around 10PM, having walked downstairs from her midtown office, and then walked and hitched back home.

I got bored around 8 PM, and started playing my drums. My Dad runs in: "Cut it out! People are scared enough as it is!"

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
I think a major breaker blew in Canada, which caused an overload chain reaction throughout the NorthEast.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Human Error
Overused Grids
Mechanical Failures

Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Neither was significant

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
I think I got a day off from school.
And for the first one, it was great that everyone helped each other out.

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
I have indirectly experienced "normal" power failures in the D.C. area that affect people's lives more adversely and for longer, than the NYC blackout.

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
No change - Con Ed had little or nothing to do with the cause.

If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
I was not in NYC for the 1977 event.

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

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 was on the West coast for the 1977 event, this is the correct opinion of the 2 blackouts. Were the media more jaded and negative in '77?

Cite as: Mike Bobrik, Story #178, The Blackout History Project, 30 July 2002, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/178/>.
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