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Contributed by: [name withheld]
Contributed on: January 18, 2000

Which blackout(s) did you experience?

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 both of the blackouts, having grown up in Brooklyn but 1977 has more meaning to me. I arrived home exhausted because I was pregnant and laid down for a nap. I don't know whether is was the darkness and silence induced by the black-out but I did not fully wake up until the next morning much refreshed and surprised to be told that there was a blackout! And, if I have not confused things a bit, after all it was a very emotional 22 years ago, I was shocked by the damage that had been done in the Bronx where I resided. Having been too young to have experienced the urban riots in the 60's I was deeply impressed by the broken windows, glass and general disarray of the blocks I visited the weekend after the riot. If the facts fail me in some way, I remember the effect of seeing all of that confusion and disorder on my general disposition at the time.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
For a long time our utilities, like many monopolies have ignored basic concerns, offering as little as they can get by with in the way of services. I think a blackout could have been anticipated back then. But it bothers me to think that their alternative was experienced by people in Harlem and elsewhere a few months back when whole blocks including projects were "blacked-out" as an alternative to disrupting business. When will we understand that we can not treat people like less than that!

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
In the literal sense,a blackout is a failure of electrical power brought about by extreme and unanticipated demands or surges of electrical power or something like that. But the more interesting definition is blackout as a methaphor for the failure of those in power to deal with the realities of this City--in that sense the present mayor would be, in my opinion, someone who is suffering from a serious failure of power--that is the power to make this city a liveable one for everyone, but especially the poor.

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?
1977 was shocking considering that it had happened before. I just wondered where all the R&D funding goes and the enormous profits turned into.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
Under my special circumstances both baby and I had a very good sleep but the silence and darkness definitely had a lulling effect on me. I was disgusted by all the waste brought about in the following days by the looting, etc.

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I think I learned many new things, technical as well as the full extent of the damage but I still have questions.

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Like holding your breath for an unbearable amount of time.

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

If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
I think 1965 was more violent, but time has blurred my memory.

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

If yes, please explain:
We need more people-minded policies, safety measures, controls, plans, etc.

Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
Yes (please explain)

If yes, please explain:
I wondered how else we could use some of the distructive power unleashed that night. I wondered about the millions of caring and courageous acts that were performed. Who are these people?

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:
I thought it was the other way around, but I might be mistaken.

Cite as: Anonymous, Story #32, The Blackout History Project, 18 January 2000, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/32/>.
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