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November 30, 2009
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 a newlywed, living in Rochdale Village in Jamaica Queens. This was a large co-op development, and they had their own generator. When the lights went out all over the city, we still had electricity. I wasn't even aware, at first, that there was a black-out. My husband was an accountant, and he was working that particular day for a large jewelry account in Manhattan. (I believe he called to tell me what was happening.) When the lights went out , the safes popped open. They wouldn't let anyone leave the premises until they checked their pockets to be sure they didn't steal any jewelry in the dark. My husband had to walk over the Queensboro Bridge to Astoria Queens where his parents lived, because the subways were not working. Then he walked up 8 flights of stairs to his parents apartment, because, of course, the elevator wasn't working. In the mean time, I was comfy at home in Jamaica, with the lights on, while the whole city was without electricity. For weeks, all everyone talked about was where they were when the lights went out.
I was not living in NYC during the 1977 blackout.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
If I recall, it was from the large use of air conditioning. I don't recall what failed in the system.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Inability of the power facilities to handle the amount of electricity being used, especially during heatwaves when there is large usage of airconditioning. Then there are the occasional power failures due to breakdown of equipment.
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
The 1965 blackout was significant, because it showed us that our entire society needs electricity to function at every level. Without electricity, our lives come to a stop. Trains don't work, lights don't work, elevators don't work, refrigerators don't work, security is impacted etc.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
I was, personally, not affected, as I mentioned above. My husband was inconvenienced, to say the least. My parents and in-laws lost all the food that was in their freezers and refrigerators.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
It was unbelievable and scary!!
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
"Normal" power failures are shorter in duration, and temporarily inconvenience you. They're even fun for a short while. (a good excuse to go out and talk to the neighbors or to eat dinner out.) But even a normal power failure is a "pain", if it means you can't dry your hair in order to go to work, or watch TV or read a book. They, too, affect business. Retail store registers don't work, food is spoiled in restaurants, elevators don't work etc.
A big "black-out" has long reaching ramifications and can be dangerous.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
At the time, it did not instill faith.
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
Story #2175, The Blackout History Project, 30 November 2009, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/2175/>.
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