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August 6, 1999
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?
IN THE 65 BLACKOUT I WAS APPROXIMATELY 16 YEARS OLD LIVING IN THE NEW YORK CITY SUBURBS OF NASSAU COUNTY. I REMEMBER WHEN THE BLACKOUT FIRST STARTED I THOUGHT THAT IT WAS SOME KIND OF SOVIET ATTACK OR SABOTAGE (REMEMEBER THIS WAS NOT LONG AFTER THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS). AFTER REALIZING THAT THIS WAS NOT SOME SINISTER EVENT IT WAS KIND OF EXCITING LIVING THROUGH A CRISIS AND EXPERIENCING THE UNUSUAL. NOBODY THAT I KNEW WAS IN DANGER OR AT RISK SO THERE WAS NOTHING THAT I WAS WORRIED ABOUT. OUR NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR ACTUALLY HAD A GENERATOR, SO WE PLAYED AROUND WITH THAT TO TRY TO AT LEAST KEEP THE REFRIGERATOR GOING.
IN THE 77 BLACKOUT MY WIFE AND I HAD BEEN HAVING DINNER WITH MY MOTHER IN NEW JERSEY. WHEN THE BLACKOUT STARTED WE DECIDED TO STAY OVER WITH HER RATHER THAN RETURN TO OUR APARTMENT IN MANHATTAN.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
NOTHING BUILT BY HUMANS IS PERFECT. THERE WERE FLAWS IN THE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM WHICH WERE ONLY REVEALED UNDER UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
SAME AS ABOVE.
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 BOTH SHOWED HOW DEPENDENT OUR DAILY LIFE WAS ON THE SMOOTH FUNCTIONING OF THE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM AND THE EXTENT TO WHICH WE TOOK THEM FOR GRANTED. THE 77 BLACKOUT WAS MORE FRIGHTENING IN THAT ONE HAD THE FEELING THAT ANY UNUSUAL EVENT COULD BE THE CAUSE OF RIOTING.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
THE 65 BLACKOUT WAS EXCITING. I WATCHED THE 77 BLACKOUT ON TV FROM NEW JERSEY.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
THE SCOPE OF THE 65 BLACKOUT WAS STUNNING.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
HAVEN'T EXPERIENCED ANY OTHER POWER FAILURES.
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?
Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
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:
YES. CRIME RATES WERE MUCH HIGHER IN 77 AND THERE WAS A HISTORY OF RIOTING AND DISORDER IN THE PRECEEDING 10 YEARS WHICH MADE FURTHER RIOTS MORE LIKELY.
Story #3, The Blackout History Project, 6 August 1999, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/3/>.
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