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August 28, 1999
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 11 years old during the 1965 blackout. I remember it being a normal day however, when the lights went out, my home life changed dramatically if only for a time. I was at home with my mother and sisters, ages 6 and 5. It was dinner time and we had an electric stove. I distinctly remember my mother being very panicky because the food in the refrigerator might spoil and that she didn't have any way to make dinner for her children. To add to my mother's stress, my father was working in Manhattan that day. I believe out phones were also out. It was fun being a child during this blackout. We didn't have TV but we did have candles around the house. We ate a cold meal (perhaps sandwiches) and went to bed early... what else was there to do??
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Too much energy demand for the grid.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Old, poorly maintained equipment. New technologies not applied.
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?
Anytime a region loses power, there is a problem. In '65 or even '77 we weren't as technology based as we are today. If such a large regional blackout occured today we would have severe recovery problems because I don't think businesses are pro-active enough to have backups for computer sytems.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
Because I was young, virtually no impact. It was fun, like a Halloween game but confusing because we couldn't turn on the lights when we got tired/bored of being in the dark.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
No recollection of news coverage.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
A power failure to me means, you and your neighbors, possibly your town are without power for an hour or so. A blackout on the other hand is wide spread and creates dangerous situations for hospitals, etc.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
Now that I am an adult, my opinion of Con Ed... well, I'm a lady and would rather not put it in print. :)
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?
Other (please specify)
If other, please specify:
From my 11 year old view, I just became more aware that there are a great many things that are not in our control.
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 was not aware, at the time, that cooperation between strangers was an extraordinary thing. For the blackout in '77, I was in the Air Force in Texas at the time, with the lights on!
Story #21, The Blackout History Project, 28 August 1999, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/21/>.
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