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August 4, 2003
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?
In 1965, I was in my lab at Columbia University on the 11th floor of the (then) new Mudd Enginneering bldg. I was sitting at my desk, looking north when I nticed the lights in my office flickering. I looked out my window and saw this wavw of blackness rolling towards me and a few seconds later my office went dark.
I walked down the 11 flights of stairs and took the Broadway bus home.
The most interesting thing that happened is that at our apartment in northern Manhattan, the power was out exactly 12 hours to the minute, so we didn't have to reset our electric clocks.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Overloads of the transmission lines and faulty equipment
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Insufficient funds spent on utility maintenance
Rapid expansion of users in some areas without the necessary infrastructure going (NIMBY)
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
I don't remember 1977 as I was not living in NYC.
1965 is significant because of the extent of the outage and what could conceivably happen today from natural events or terrorism
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
It was fun.
We didn't have an electric can opener, so we ate peanut and jelly sandwichesd and sat in our car listening to the status reports. We went to bed and when we woke up all was well.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
It could and would happen again
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Much much longer.
Typical blackout, except for earthquake related events are 2-3 hours
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
It clearly wasn't their fault
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:
1965 and 1977 were very different times politically and I believe that the politics of the times drove the crowds in 19771938
Story #210, The Blackout History Project, 4 August 2003, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/210/>.
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