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Contributed by: [name withheld]
Contributed on: July 6, 2013

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 had just graduated from high school and was reading a catalog about Boston University since that's where i was getting ready to attend college. It was hot so I was lying on my bed in my baby doll pajamas, listening to the radio. It was playing the song Do You Wanna Make Love? The record started sounding wobbily. The DJ said there was a problem with the turntable so he started the song again & it played fine for a bit before the same thing happened again. In an instance the room went dark. Since i had been through 1965, this time I was pretty sure it was another blackout. My mother gathered us and we went out on the front porch because it was so hot. After a while we saw a bunch of kids riding new bikes down the street. There was a bike shop around the corner and they has broken in and stole new bikes. It looked like the Tour de France with all those shiny new bikes riding in line down the street. We sat outside trying to entertain ourselves & try to stay cool. We were out there for what felt like hours before going back inside. It was unbearably hot and eventually we fell asleep. The next morning we got up early, took a shower and decided to walk down to the shopping area. We were shocked to see many stores had been broken into including the show store where there were empty boxes thrown all around. The entire area looked like a tornado had struck.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
I don't know I guess since it was very hot and everyone had on their A/C it just overloaded the circuits and they blew.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
I think their infrastructure is old obsolete outdated and unable to cope with the increased demand.

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?
You feel so helpless when there is a blackout. You can't do anything, your normal routine is disrupted and in 1977 people that you knew were just doing awful things that seemed stupid.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
I got very little sleep because it was very hot and uncomfortable. It probably had less impact than the one in 1965 because I had been through it before and knew the situation was beyond my control & I had to just wait it out.

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
Well the focus on the news was the looting and those images of people breaking into stores and carrying goods is what most people associate with the 1977 blackouts.

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
They're all basically the same just varies by degree of severity, time of year and how long it lasts.

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
I ma not a fan of Con Ed. They are a monopoly and they always let us down in the summer when they know the demand for energy is high.

If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
1965 was new and shocking to me but it was a controlled event. 1977 was old hat but the reaction of the people was more shocking to me.

Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
No

Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
No

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:
This is accurate. It might be simplified and I do know that my view is tempered by the media coverage, but 1965 showed more cooperation and 1977 was out of control. But there were many things out of control in NYC in 1977 and it was very hot which never helps in those type of situations.

Cite as: Anonymous, Story #2206, The Blackout History Project, 6 July 2013, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/2206/>.
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