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August 15, 2003
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?
I was six years old in 1965. We lived in Flushing, NY, in a 3rd-story apartment in a a 6-story building. My father was at work at 30 Rockefeller Center. I had a Kenner Give-A-Show Projector that I used as a flashlight, "helping" people to navigate our stairway landing and our floor's hall. Dad got home early the next morning by taxi. I still have the Life Magazine that reported on the event.
In 1977 our family lived on Fort Totten, the Army base in Bayside. I and several friends were going to go out for the evening. The five of us piled into our friend's little Fiat, and he hit the ignition. Nothing. At the same instant the world went black. The car was pointed at Little Neck Bay and all we could see in Little Neck was blackness as well. It was eerie, and a little disconcerting that the blackout hit the very instant that he turned the ignition and his starter failed.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
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?
They showed the extent that our society relies on electrical technology to get through life. In the case of the 1977 blackout, the rioting and looting didn't affect us in our neighborhood, but it also showed how certain elements of our society react to the "opportunities" of the failure of a critical technology.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
At those times in my life they were Great Adventures. Today they'd be a challenge, but not insurmoutable. I've gone through blackouts since, and we're fairly well prepared. Today I own a business that literally demands electricity, so its loss would be a detriment to me financially but that's it.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I didn't really grasp the importance of the blackouts until later years, and it made me realize how much we depend on electricity for business, security, travel and entertainment.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Since the two NYC blackouts I've lost power for as many as five days (a serious blizzard in Maine), and it wasn't a serious issue for me personally. We dressed warmly, pulled out the camp stove, and put the food out in the snow. I don't see a serious difference for me personally, but I also see the bigger picture, where the loss of power affects other people, from indiviuals with health problems to our national economy that would be affected by the loss of power to the stock markets, for instance.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
No affect. I don't believe that Con Ed is in the business of causing blackouts.
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
The mood of the people was uglier in 1977, where rioting and looting ran rampant in some areas. The blackout of 1965 resulted in a mini "baby boom" nine months later.
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?
Other (please specify)
If other, please specify:
The blackouts had no effect on my reliance on electricity, as my electric bill will attest, but I keep myself prepared for a loss of power. Oil lamps, camp stove, etc. We now live in a rural area in Michigan, so it's not unheard of for a power cable to be torn down. We had a straight-line windstorm here in 1998 that caused a 5-day loss of power, but we coped.
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:
I hadn't read this question when I answered question #10. Yes, the story rings true.
Story #261, The Blackout History Project, 15 August 2003, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/261/>.
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