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Contributed by: M Rocco
Contributed on: October 4, 2008

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 was alomst 6 when the first one happened. I remember bathing by candlelight, being only a little afraid, and not much else. The '77 blackout story was another matter. There had been a brief brownout first. Several moments later, the lights were out for, well it seemed like forever. It was a hot night. I was dating someone who biked around our area, selling candles. The whole neighborhood was out, and we began to hear rumors that stores across the city were being looted. We heard that gangs of people from other neighborhoods were walking the streets, looking to rob, steal, set fires and create as much mayhem as possible. These rumors were hard to credit, but as we all know they were true. I could not understand why folks would destroy the places in which they lived. I remember feeling real fear that night. It was hard to sleep due to the heat, and the knowledge that if trouble came to our door, there was no one to call. My family slept with our windows open, as usual, but we took turns staying up that night. It is my hope that we have moved from that place of fear of each other, to a more sane approach.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Didn't know then, don't know now and don't trust the answers that came out of both incidents!

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
aging infastructure

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 '65 blackout showed us our best face, the '77 blackout showed us that the veneer of society is thin indeed.

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
The '77 blackout took much longer to fix. I recall that if was we did not get our power back on till the next night or possibly 2 days later. It was longer that 24 hours though.

Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
Yes (please explain)

If yes, please explain:
It reflected both societies as a whole, both the good and the bad.

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, look to the bigger picture as to what was happening. Breakdown of family values, more drug usage, poorer schools, fiscal crisis.

Cite as: M Rocco, Story #2164, The Blackout History Project, 4 October 2008, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/2164/>.
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