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August 14, 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 running the light board for a performance of an Off-Broadway show. Just as we started the second act, the stage lights went out. At first the stage manager (and I) thought I'd done something wrong, but it was obvious when the emergency lights came on that it was the power. The House Manager came in to say it looked as if the whole block was out. We waited a little while to see if it would come back on, then we evacuated the theatre.
I lived pretty far south (SoHo) and the theatre was in Midtown, so one of my co-workers invited me to come home with her instead of trying to get home alone. A bunch of us walked up 8th ave.
it was funny, because all the light was from the car headlights. The power flickered on a couple of times, and it was weird to have the whole lighting "landscape" change.
We walked up Broadway to the West Side, and I slept on my friend's couch.
We saw no looting, where we were. I can't recall whether we knew about looting at the time, or whether we heard about it the following day. We weren't afraid, but --- it being New York --- we were wary.
I think I got a taxi home the next day.
In SoHo and the village, all the stores and restaurants were giving away free food, especially ice cream, before it would spoil.
There was no looting in the Village or Soho. I felt safe. There was a certain holiday feeling about everything.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Power grid overload.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
No real opinion. It happens. The power companies could probably do a better job of anticipating overloads and compensating for them, but sometimes "the perfect storm" occurs.
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?
They had an economic impact. They also underscored the need for conservation, and the fact that demand for power is so great.
I think the 1965 one was much more surprising for the public in general, as it was the first blackout in a major city.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
I lost work (pay) during it, since I was an hourly employee.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Lasted longer, covered a broader area.
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?
Became less reliant
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 don't recall a lot of looting and arson --- I know there was some, but not all over the city. Certainly not where I was.
Story #215, The Blackout History Project, 14 August 2003, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/215/>.
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