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August 15, 2003
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 junior at Syracuse University living in Sadler Dormitory. Several of us went to an early dinner and were eating in the cafeteria pulling our usual pranks on one another when the place went black. We all hooted and thought it was a great time to make jokes and fool around. Then - after few minutes - it looked like the power was NOT coming back on and we left to walk back to our rooms. Since mine was on the 6th floor, it was a lot of stairs. We could see the entire city of Syracuse from the floor lounge. It was dusk and the city looked beautiful and eiry all at the same time. The phones were working and most of us called home and our gilrfriends to see what they were doing and where they were. We went to bed and the power came on sometime in the early morning. I don't remember one word about looting or crime or anything except how grateful we all were that the power came back on.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
One rumor was that it was a squirrel or some critter that had gotten into a relay station and shorted it out. Then I remember something about seeing a picture of a car that had crashed into the power substation in upstate New York. I don't really remember hearing what the actual cause was. I didn't pursue it because I had school to worry about and by the time they figured it out, I had pretty much forgotten about it. Beside - students in thise days weren't to connected to the news.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Poor interconnections between power systems - perhaps lack of some sort of oversight of the entire system.. While I abhore the feds, it may be necessary to have some sort of standardization between/among electrical generating companies. This type of problem could give a terrorist another idea on how to mess up the US economy.
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?
Simply because it seems so improbable that some "minor" incident in nowhere land could have such devastating results. It seems that something as critical to everyday life and the economy and the nation's security could be so poorly stewarded by the nation's leaders.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
No real problems - just the inconvenience of no power.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
You guys better get a handle on this.....
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
no difference personally; however, the thought of hospitals and airports and trains without power is a much bigger problem than my house power.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
Anything can happen to anybody anytime
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:
That story seemed quite exact to me. First, the 1965 blackout was in November and it was cold. No one was running around the streets for any length of time. Everyone was trying to find shelter to get in out of the weather. In 1977, it was the height of the summer heat and people were without air conditioning and going to the streets to cool off. In addition, there had been a significant change in moral and family values since 1965. Looting was widespread and primarily due to inner city people being thrown together in a very stressful situation. Violance has been promoted in so many ways (movies, TV, books) that many people don't think twice about hurting another person or stealing something whenever there is pandamonium. One can only hope that we have become a more civilized nation since tht time.
Story #249, The Blackout History Project, 15 August 2003, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/249/>.
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