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March 10, 2005
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 was 10 years old at the time of this blackout, and living with my family in a working class neighborhood in South Norwalk, Connecticut.
I was watching "Mothra" on the 4:30(?) movie, and suddenly, the TV channel went out, then the lights went out. Someone got out a radio,and we began learning just how widespread the trouble was. There was quite a bit of concern, as I recall that "the Russians" or some other Communist group had caused it, or would somehow take advantage of the situation.
What is most memorable to me was that South Norwalk has its own electric company, and our power was back on pretty quickly. It was hard for me to understand how we could get our lights back on, but New York City and most of the reat of the Northeast could not.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Some sort of overload happened which could not be isolated to a small area & had a cascading effect.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
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?
I think 1965 was significant because of the scope of area it affected. I think 1977 was significant becuse of the rampaging that was reported.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
I always have candles and a battery powered radio in the house.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I don't think my perspective changed that much over time- it developed as the events occurred, but didn't change afterward.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Actually, I have experienced worse power losses from natural disasters (the December ice storm of 1973, hurricanes), where lots of physical damage is done to the network and I have been required to seek shelter or food elsewhere than home for a number of days. On the whole, most power failures I experience are very minor- a matter of seconds or minutes.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
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:
I can't say if the former is true, I only remember people being nervous, and maybe therefore helping each other out, like a civil defense drill type of thing. I have heard quite a few stories about the looting & arson of 77, though.
Story #334, The Blackout History Project, 10 March 2005, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/334/>.
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