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September 1, 1999
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'm referring to the 1965 blackout, when I was a junior in high school. I remember it being a bit frightening, although I guess I'm not the easily frightened type, because I don't recall a feeling of horror. Things ran through everyone's minds as to the blackout being a plot of some kind by a foreign government, etc., but extreme fear, I just don't recall that. It was more a wait and see what will become of this attitude.
Personally, I had an art project due, so I sat and painted a picture by candle light--and got a good grade on it, too!
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
I don't remember what reason was given at the time, but I assumed it was due to either a power overload or a breakdown in the system, somewhere along the line, at the time.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
I don't even remember a blackout in 1977, so I guess I'd have to say that one was insignificant to me. The one in 1965, however, was memorable, it was extensive, and it caused revisions in the systems to be made. Therefore, I would consider it to have been significant.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
Not at all, personally, however, I think that was because of my age at the time. Obviously, a blackout would affect anyone with a medical problem, if extensive, with food spoilage, traffic lights, etc.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I'm beginning to think I'm more unflappable than I thought, because I don't recall my perception being changed much, at all. I am a mellow person, though.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
The 1965 blackout was a "big deal" and widely spoken about, a topic of conversation for many days.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
That their equipment might be outdated for the number of people and machines in use at the time.
Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
Yes (please explain)
If yes, please explain:
Yes, as I said, there was the brief thought that it may be due to some sort of foreign government plot.
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:
The 1965 blackout story rings true, because I believe no one knew what was going on and perhaps, once again, the threat that it was part of some sort of conspiracy by another government against us, people pulled together. We were still afraid of Russia and blamed most scarey things on them. I rather doubt the 1977 story, but perhaps it's true, because since 1965 there have been so many instances of looting during times of upheaval.
Story #24, The Blackout History Project, 1 September 1999, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/24/>.
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