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July 1, 2003
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 only 13 years old and visiting my grandmother in Harlem New York during the blackout of 1977. It was a very different experience for a small town boy from Gary, Indiana to experience the looting and drama that unfolded at 116th and 8th avenue in New York. I remember the city going black and sitting in the window seat watching the people as they crashed the huge pane glass window of the corner furniture store at 116th and 8th avenue in Harlem. It was amazing!!! Once the window was broken people poured into the shops and grabed what they could. I didnt really understand what was going on at the time but people seemed almost happy about the experience. As they made there way up the avenue with as much as they could carry I heard the sirens and police cars came soon after. Te local Harlem residents scattered like little ants and as quickly as the looting began it ended. The next day was complete and total chaos. Store fronts were damaged and shop owners were wandering through the looted mess to slavage what they could. The blackout was truly a bit of history that ill never forget.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Over loaded grid system.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Improper city and power grid design.
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?
I was young and there!!!! That to me was a huge bit of history I had the opportunity to experience first hand.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
It was the first time i'd seen a major city or any city for that matter go completely black. Up until that point I thought that could never happen.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I never really heard the full stoory on the blackout til I was a little bit older. I was glad that I had the opportunity to experience it first hand.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Pretty similar...minus the looting.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
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
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... I was in New York at the time and experienced it first hand.
Story #205, The Blackout History Project, 1 July 2003, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/205/>.
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