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September 3, 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?
I was in 7th grade, on a field trip to see the play MacBeth. I couldn't wait to see how they would manage to behead MacBeth on stage ! Moments before the big moment, as the soldiers were running down the aisles, the lights went out. At first we all thought it was part of the act, and I remember thinking, I guess this is how they do it. When the lights go back on, Macbeth would be dead. But they never came back on. We all got back on the school bus, went back to Hobbs JHS in Medford, MA. and never saw the end of the play ! How disappointing ! It was a dark, eery ride back home, too.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Too much new technology drawing electricity; power supply companies not equipped to handle the enormous and unprecedented demand, I guess.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
unexpected demand and/or under-prepared power supply companies
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
It was so total and widespread. It made people more aware of how dependent we are on electricity.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
I missed the ending of Macbeth ! I was only 13 at the time - it seemed important back then.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Normal power failures are not as unnerving as the blackout was. It's like comparing snow storms to the Blizzard of 78 - every snow storm since has just been a monor inconvenience that can't compare to '78.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
I was too young to remember it having anything to do with a specific 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
If other, please specify:
I think I was just a little more aware of our reliance on electricity
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:
Unfortunately, over the last few decades it has become more common place to hear stories like this. It happened after 9/11 when people abused a security failure by taking more money out of banks via ATMs than they had. But it's also unfortunate that bad news attracts more attention in the media than good news. So perhaps human nature really hasn't changed that much, but the reporting of it has.
Story #183, The Blackout History Project, 3 September 2002, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/183/>.
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