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Contributed by: Roberta Strenka
Contributed on: November 9, 2009

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?
1965 - It was a Tuesday. My family always went out for Chinese food. We were at the Chun Cha Fu restaurant between 90th and 91st and Broadway. I was 8 years old. The lights went out suddenly. I remember my father accidentally sticking his elbow into the mustard!
1977 - It was a hot summer night and I was sitting near an open window in my apartment on 90th and Broadway. Within seconds I heard windows smashing as the looting began. I remember that the lights went back on about 24 hours later...you almost didn't even have to touch your manual clocks that had stopped 24 hours earlier.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
In the summer you can imagine the stress with all the air-conditioners. I'm not sure about the one in the fall.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Not sure.

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?
1965 - First time.

1977 - looting

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
1965 - As I said, I was in the Chinese restaurant. That is all I remember.
1977 - I didn't go to work the next day. We were encouraged to stay home. Also - I remember thinking it was sad how quickly the looting happened. I once read a book by Edgar Casey that had this question - What is the worst thing you would do if you knew you wouldn't get caught. It made me think of that night.

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I was shocked that it could happen.

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
I was thinking about this the other day. I don't remember any other time without power. Maybe apartment buildings have protection against this. Where I live now in the suburbs, perhaps once a year you get a short power outage. I don't ever remember losing power in NYC other than the two big blackouts.

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
Con Ed was the culprit....

If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
I don't remember looting in 1965. I disctinctly remember hearing the smashing of windows very shortly after the lights went out in 1977.

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:
I didn't read this question before I answered the other questions. As you have read, the smashing of windows was what I distinctly remember in 1977.

Cite as: Roberta Strenka, Story #2174, The Blackout History Project, 9 November 2009, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/2174/>.
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