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Contributed by: linda f
Contributed on: August 20, 2003

Which blackout(s) did you experience?
Other (please specify)

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 walking around in brooklyn when i noticed the traffic lights were all out and the grocery store on Vanderbilt near park place was closing at 4:15. i stopped at a pizza joint when i heard that it was all 5 boroughs figuring it might be a while until i got cooked food again.

when i got back to my building on prospect place between underhill and washington ave a bunch of us congregated outside and listened to a portable radio. i brought down my frozefruit bars and shared. the bodega on our corner started giving away all its frozen stuff. eventually i went upstairs to make some tuna fish before the mayo went bad.

hung out on my patio -- our building has a private courtyard in the center of the building and 8 of the units have terraces--and chatted with my other neighbors. then would go down to hear the radio the woman on our stoop had. we all started listing what we each had and didnt have like batteries, candles, radios, food and offering to share.

i decided to go to bed early and within an hour of lying down decided to get back up b/c there were people singing VERY loudly outside. i looked out the window and about a dozen or more of the people in by building were outside singing and dancing to a boombox cd player an older man had brought down. they were mostly playing whitney houston, luther vandross, salsa and marvin gaye. now i like marvin a lot and was also happy to hear bob marly but eventually i just had to go down with some of my own cds to make requests.

my neighbors--black white old young spanish asian straight gay etc--were drinking wine and rum and using flashlights as spotlights on those who were dancing. the other people in the area who are usually noisy like the alcoholics across the street and the drug dealers next door were just staring at us dumbfounded.

i finally got them to play two of my requests--delite's groove is in the heart and eurythmics sweet dreams. then they played prince. then donna summer. eventually the drug dealers were asking us if we had any cold cuts and saying that they could tell from the way we were singing that we were honkeys. LOL! funny especially cuz the majority were not white!

at times the people across the way would use their flashlights to add to our disco spotlight thing and would applaud at some of the songs.

i was out there until after 1am and welcomed some of my neighbors who had walked home from work. after i came back in i finally drifted off to some more donna summer.

friday morning we still had no power but i hear some people lost water too and we had water. i drove to park slope where there had been power since 4am. i got bacon and eggs at a very crowded dinner with overwhelmed staff. i found a grocery on 7th ave that had ice and brought some home with hotdogs and frappacinos. shared the ice with some neighbors and we all wandered back and forth from our apartments to the stoop all day. i cooked my hotdogs on the gas grill and gave some away. traded one for a donut. someone else fired up a charcoal grill and was cooking sausages and burgers and we all were sharing food.

finally got power after 6pm but then the phone service was down. tried to call out on my cell the whole time and only contacted one friend directly on friday afternoon. couldnt check voicemail after power returned and the phones are still screwy.
i had lots of fun! drove some people around in exchange for peanuts-literally!

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
i'm not an electrical engineer so im waiting to hear more info and opinions.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
i think it is natural for systems to have problems but i am surprised measures havent been taken to avoid the kind of domino effect that happened again.

Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Neither was significant

Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
in the 2003 blackout people were not trying to hurt or take advantage of others.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
i bonded with my neighbors and enjoyed getting to know them better.

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
when something is that widespread people are nicer.

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

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

If yes, please explain:
i think after 9/11 people were more likely to pull together and also were grateful that it was just a blackout and not an attack.

Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?

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:
that is what i heard but i experienced neither

Cite as: linda f, Story #293, The Blackout History Project, 20 August 2003, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/293/>.
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