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Contributed by: [name withheld]
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 10 years old and my sister and I were roller skating in our basement in Lake Ronkonkoma, New York on Long Island. The lights went out and we froze. My parents came down into the basement with flashlights and we took off our skates and went upstairs and outside. There were no lights anywhere. My parents placed candles all around the house and my aunts and Uncles from next door and up the street came over to talk. Everyone stood on the front lawn and talked about what was happening. Then everyone went home and slept. It was odd to wake up the next morning and not have the normal noises that go on in the house. We ate all cooked meals outside over a campfire in the back yard.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
My parents told me that an acquaintance that they knew from Massacheusetts power and light (who was an alcoholic), got loaded and shorted out a "grid." I believed that for many many years. Now I believe that somebody caused it, but I doubt it was that particular guy.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Too much draw on power too quickly.

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?
In 1965 it was a real eye opener to the fact that electricity is not a natural or given thing. It woke me up to the fact that it is a provided service that we pay for. The 1977 black out scared me. I was in Brooklyn and witnessed the looting. It made me very frightened of black people for many years. I saw about 50 or so black people in front of a store you could see police officers shining lights on them. Their faces gleamed in the light. But in back of the "crowd" you could hear glass shattering. The group (massive) in front was shielding the people looting the store. It was nasty. Our escort out of Brooklyn had guns to protect us. I was 8 months pregnant and I hate Brooklyn and will never go there again.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
1965 was exciting and informative. 1977 made me glad I live out here on the island.

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
1965 my perception remained the same.
1977 made me extremely prejudiced

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?

If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
1965 was treated as a camping expedition, 1977 made us aware that there was a bunch of people out there who were uncivilized and couldn't control themselves.

Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
Yes (please explain)

If yes, please explain:
Explained already

Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?

If yes, please explain:
I avoid Brooklyn, but did not create a crisis.

How did the blackout(s) affect your daily reliance on electricity?
Other (please specify)

If other, please specify:
I keep camping equipment, alternative power sources (generators), alternative light sources, and when I buy stoves I buy gas. I have both a well and city water into the home. I have passive solar heating. I am aware that the electricity is a provided service that can go out at any time.

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:
Yes, I saw it. I think it was because the black population had risen too fast. Too many in one place.

Cite as: Anonymous, Story #264, The Blackout History Project, 15 August 2003, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/264/>.
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