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Bernadette Adams McCann
April 17, 2003
Which blackout(s) did you experience?
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 remember when the lights went out in 1965. I was going upstairs in our house in Richmond Hill, Queens, to turn the light on for my little sister (she was 6, I was 10) and just as I reached up to turn on the light at the top of the stairs, no power! I didn't know what had happened! I remember my mother saying how thankful she was we had gas heating and for cooking, so we could eat dinner! My father was stuck in "the city" (Manhattan) for the night,as the subwasy were not running! Bars were giving away drinks and things were apparently quite convivial in the East 40s that night!
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Bad Con Ed planning.
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Both were significant
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
The whole metropolitian area -- many millions of people -- with not electricity? It looks like the 1965 blackout was more "civilized" if that is the word -- no looting, but it was November....
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
I was glad I was home after work in 1977 and had not decided to stay in Manhattan that night so I was safe in my littel old home in Queens!
In 1965, it was very weird and a littel scary but my mom was very comforting. I was 10, and my siblings were 8, 6 and 4. And our elderly aunt, who lived downstairs, came up to be with us. I recall transistor radios and candles.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
1977 was quite shocking. I felt sad people would act like that.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Since I've moved to California in 1990, I've experienced many short power outages. PG &E, the utility here is the pits.
The 1965 and 1977 were BIG and SCARY.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
I always thought they were pretty bad until I moved to California and now have to live with P G & E. They're even worse!
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
I think I've covered that in other answers.
Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
Yes (please explain)
If yes, please explain:
1977 was bad for the city.
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:
I wish I knew. 1965 did happen in November, so people probably weren't out on the streets like in July ....
Bernadette Adams McCann,
Story #198, The Blackout History Project, 17 April 2003, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/198/>.
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