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June 12, 2011
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?
In 1965, my father had a gunshop in Corona, Queens. He had just obtained a concession to sell Coleman gas lanterns used for nighttime lighting while in the woods. He set up lanterns at the bar that was 2 stores down, allowing them to remain open all nite. They made a fortune.
In 1977, I was a medical intern working the 4PM-Midnight shift at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn. We spent the evening stitching looters that had lacerated themselves breaking into stores. They were trading contraband while we stitched them, and wanted us to hurry so they could get back out to the streets.
When it was time to go home, I drove on Church Avenue where traffic was being directed by looters. At one point, I was stopped by one looter so that his friend could remove a store gate with his pick-up truck and a chain. Once accomplished, I was allowed to proceed home.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
I was 14 when the 1965 blackout occurred. I don't recall what caused it.
Reputedly, the 1st human MRI scan was being done in the basement at Downstate Medical Center when the 1977 blackout occurred. They thought they may have caused it, since it was one of the largest magnets of its time.
I believe the actual cause in 1977 was lightening strikes at the main power trunks in the Kingston, NY area.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
The power grids do not have enough redundancy to overcome natural events, such as lightening strikes or human error.
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?
9 months after the 1965 blackout, the birth rate skyrocketed in NYC. The same didn't happen in 1977, because people were too busy looting.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
My answer to I.2 covers it.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
There is no comparison. The impact was orders of magnitude greater than other power failures.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
The negative social aspects in 1977 were much worse 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:
MY response to I.2, which I wrote before seeing I.14 is exactly in line with, and confirms, the description above.
Story #2188, The Blackout History Project, 12 June 2011, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/2188/>.
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