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Contributed by: colin mark duggleby
Contributed on: July 11, 2007

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 working overtime (as usual) in my freshman class ('65) architecture studio at Pratt Institute, an old building with 25 ft. ceilings and windows to match when our normal (night) view suddenly disappeared, and the huge, yellow moon was all we could see. We (about 10 students) rushed over to the West window (facing Manhattan) and looked intently, only to realize that it was not a joke, that all of the usual buildings, Chrysler, Empire State, etc., were still there and were black - pure black. The bright, full moon and its light made the scene all the more strange.

Our next move was to rush down the dark stairs to the lawn in front of the building and join about 200 others in a stare-down of our surroundings (also black) and, most impressively, Manhattan. Then, we all impulsively moved toward the Brooklyn Bridge, a few blocks away. What we found was total mayhem: madness, joy, honking, singing, dancing, trash-bin fires, every person interpreting the situation through there own, unique lenses. Some of the restaurants on Myrtle ('Moytel') Avenue already sported candles and signs that read: "FREE FOOD UNTIL IT'S ALL GONE!" Now this was a party!!

I was fresh off the ranch, 60 miles north of the west gate to Yellowstone National Park, near Ennis, Montana, and this was surely the most impressive experience of my life, so far.

In closing, I must say that everyone changed the way they interacted with each other in the most positive of ways, and my own view of the human race was expanded exponentially.

Colin Mark Duggleby

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Unexplained, intense magnetic fields threw huge 'backup' breaker switches in power plants in Ontario province, Canada, and beyond that, and the thousands of reports of bright, hovering lights near the many 'nodes' on the grid, I have no further opinion.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Inability for the design of the grid to compensate for certain, extremely large loads, far outside the 'guardband' built into the physical infrastructure.

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

Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
I clicked that 'both were significant' and your software wouldn't accept my pick, it just remained 'neither.'

Both were significant because the very discipline of design is to plan for any reasonable extreme (so that the system can remain up and running.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
I was totally impressed with the large scope of the situation, and it made me aware of possible anomalies in every design.

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I was most impressed with the large number of 'ufo' sightings.

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Many times the scale and consequences.

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
I always thought Con-Ed was a dirt-expelling, money-hungry, inefficient eye- and lung-sore.

If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
Only 1965 for me.

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

If yes, please explain:
Again, your software did not accept my choice of 'yes.'

It (they) indicate the inadequacy of systems thought to be rock solid and completely failsafe.

Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?

How did the blackout(s) affect your daily reliance on electricity?
Became less reliant

If other, please specify:
Still couldn't change my choice in your 'window.'

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:
It is probably true, and indicates the profound unpredictability of our species.

Cite as: colin mark duggleby, Story #1974, The Blackout History Project, 11 July 2007, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/1974/>.
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