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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 lived on LaSalle Street, near 125th St and Broadway in NYC. My son was about 6 weeks old. He was asleep and I was taking a nap. When I awoke, it was dark and no lights were on in the apartment. And, they would not go on. From my 10th floor windows I could see NJ, which did have lights.
I stuck my head out the apt. door and rang my neighbor's bell. Mrs. Lee said, "It must be an attack - all the lights are out. Go home and lock the doors and hope all is OK."
I went back inside my apt. and waited for my husband to come home and for his parents who were coming from upstate
for dinner and to see their new grandson.
That night the IRT trains did not run - they were elevated over Broadway in front of our balcony. The baby slept through the night for the first time. We stayed up looking at the dark street below and wondering.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
I am not an electrical transmission specialist. All I know is what I have read about transmission grids. My opinion is build on research, guesses, and bias. It's not worth counting.
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
It was an interesting thing.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
I've always made sure to have some alternative means of getting heat and water since then. Of course, living in Texas now makes heat less important. And, living down hill from the local water tower makes having water fairly reliable. So does having a big big LP tank and a propane cooktop.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I was surprised. I had never expected such a thing.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
When I was a child in RI, we had a hurricane in 1954 (I think that was the year and Carol was the storm, but I might
be mistaken. We went about a week without power because many
lines were down. My grandmother taught us how to play canasta and my family formed the Candlelight Canasta Club
and played for a week. It's less fun when you are grown up
and have to worry about things.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
Don't get me started on the problems we had with ConEd during our years in NYCity. In Brooklyn, later, we found we
had very high bills for a brownstone house. We added up
every electrical use in the house and found we could not
use as much as they charged us for. It took the state's very
nice Atty. General's office to find we were being charged at
a commercial rate. We got enough credit to go without a bill for the next two years! I think almost every monopoly
tends to get arrogant.
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
I experienced only the 1965 blackout.
Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
If yes, please explain:
No, no paranoia, no dreams of black helicopters, sorry.
How did the blackout(s) affect your daily reliance on electricity?
Became less reliant
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:
It's probably based on anecdotal records.
Story #274, The Blackout History Project, 16 August 2003, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/274/>.
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