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June 4, 2004
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?
At age 15, I had just moved with my family from Golden, CO to Delmar, NY, a subburb of Albany. I remember being fearful of living on the east coast, since all I really knew about the east coast was what I had seen in the news and movies about NYC and Washington, DC.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Especially, during the cold war era, I was convinced that if Russia was going to attack the US, it would be a major east coast city like NYC or Washington, DC. The first thing that came to mind during the blackout was that we must be under attack from Russia. Because we were virtually incommunicado with no TV or radio, I remember the anxiety of discussing this possibility with my parents.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
It is unbelievable that something like this could happen to the greatest country on earth. The assumption of the great American Public is that the US is so technologically advanced, that this could not happen to us. Clearly, the technology is not in place to support an aging infrastructure to allow a power failure of this magnitude in 1965 and then recently in NYC!
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?
My assumption was that systems (technology and people) were in place to guard this from happening.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
I took my SATs that year and devoted my essay to the blackout. My essay was in the form of a letter and last will and testiment, essentially a clone of one I wrote during the blackout to my best girl friend in Colorado. I truly had been frightened and wrote about it.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
Much relieved, but concerned that systems were not in place to protect us in the future.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Not even close. With cell phones, we can still contact someone to findout how long normal blackout will take place. In 1965, we were clueless about what was happening. We did get bits of information from neighbors who had battery operated radios.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
I did wonder how competitent they were, but began to understand the complexity of the matter of implementing technological solutions on an aging power infrastructure.
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?
Became less reliant
If other, please specify:
WE now have battery operated radios!
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 says something about the loss of values in a decade.
Story #320, The Blackout History Project, 4 June 2004, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/320/>.
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