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Contributed by: Mary Adams
Contributed on: August 16, 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 remember that it was about 5:20 p.m. and the train had just pulled out of the 14th street station, going to Brooklyn when it stopped & was completely dark. After awhile an emergency light came on. I remember somebody said something about water & I started singing "cool water". Someone down at the end of the car or maybe even in the next car yelled "if you weren't having so much fun they would get us out & I remember saying "I'm sure they are not leaving us in here because we are having fun. After several hours, it seems like 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. they put some cans (like garbage cans) down on the tracks & helped us to get up to the platforms. I was a girl from a farm in Ohio & my 2 younger sisters lived with me. I was worried because I didn't know where they were so tried to make a phone call but the lines were so long that I went out on the street and caught a bus going downtown. When I got to the Brooklyn bridge I walked across (breaking a heel off my shoes) in my bare feet and caught a bus going to flatbush. When it ran out of gas I walked the rest of the way, to New York ave & Newkirk. I saw a candle in the window of our 6th floor apt and knew that my sisters were home. The both worked at the same place & so I knew they were both home. I started to go in the building but it was pitch black so I ran back down to the phone booth & called them & they brought a flashlight down & we went back up together. It was around 2 or 3 a.m. when I got home. I just laid down to go to sleep when the lights came on but they were off and on the remainder of the night. The next day I took the subway over to work, the elevators weren't working in the building so I walked up 16 flights & the doors were locked so I went home again. I don't remember being afraid at all but it certainly was an experience I will never forget.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
I thought it was an overload but it was in November so it was not because of the heat.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
I don't really have an opinion. I think they do the best they know how to do & sometimes things happen.

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?
because they affect so many people & their ability to do what they need to do.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
It was just that short period of time and although I will never forget it I didn't have any fear that it would happen again.

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
Nothing really

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Any other blackouts that I have been in were not as widespread & I usually just sit and wait for the power to come back on or get in a car & go home if I am at work.

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
I didn't really feel any differently about them.

Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
No

Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
No

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:
I remember that very few negative things happened in 1965 & I felt that New Yorkers were very cooperative as they were any time something happened.

Cite as: Mary Adams, Story #272, The Blackout History Project, 16 August 2003, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/272/>.
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