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Contributed by: Ralph Williams
Contributed on: 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 in high school, living out in southeast Queens near Kennedy Airport and the Nassah County line but attending Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, which meant a 75- to 90-minute trip each way on the bus and subway.

I had stayed a little while in Manhattan after school, so it was already dark by the time I got off the Q-5A bus in Rosedale, Queens. To get to my neighborhood in Laurelton, I had to walk through an underpass beneath the Belt Parkway. Vandals long ago had broken the tunnel's light fixtures, but I was used to navigating it in the near-dark.

Something seemed unusual when I came up the other side. I still had to cross a couple of parkway access roads, but it didn't dawn on me until later that the only light I was seeing was from the passing vehicles headlights. Not until I came under a viaduct and out into Laurelton's streets did I realize that there were no house lights, no streetlights.

As I recall, it was a comparatively mild night for November. Apart from getting by with flashlights and a few candles and wind-up alarms. having a supper of cold leftovers, and putting on an extra blanket, things weren't too spartan. This was the age of the transistor radio, and more alarm clocks were wind-up than electric, so it wasn't too hard to keep tabs with what was going on and when to do what next.

With little else to do -- and not nearly enough batteries or candles to really make a night of socializing or even longterm reading -- my parents and I went to bed. Sometime in the night, power was restored. I remember little of the next day, but the blackout itself and my slow realization of its having happened will stick with me always.

Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
1965 only

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?
Became less reliant

Cite as: Ralph Williams, Story #252, The Blackout History Project, 15 August 2003, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/252/>.
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