<< Return to prior page
February 3, 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?
1965: I was 12 and at a friend's house with a group of classmates (St. Mel's in Flushing)working on a school project. The light went out and did not come back on. His mother eventually packed us up and sent us home. As a group of us who lived in the same area were walking home we ran into a man who seemed to have the scoop. When we asked him if he knew what happened to put out the lights he repied confidently that the source was a fire that had happened in the paint store on 20th Road and Francis Lewis Blvd. Of course no one had any idea that the blackout extended beyond Whitestone at that point. Satisfied with his expertise we all went home and tols our parents o the fire in the paint store.
1977: Now I am 25. My date and I were with another couple at a Boz Scaggs concert at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. As the power failed the sound went before the lights. The last thing we saw of the show was Boz looking toeard the control booth with shrugged shoulders and a quizical look on his face. If memory serves we were all given tickets to a rescheduled show. We left the hall and walked Broadway. Civilians were in the intersections directing traffic. Restaurants were giving away food, especiall ice cream, rather than let it go bad. Broadway in the Lincoln Center area was a pleasurable blackout experience.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Complex systems are bound to fail occasionally for a variety of reasons including the people who operate them.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
Nothing like it had ever happened before.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
Kind of exciting at the time. Nothing lasting.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
In 1965 I was awed. In 1977 the feeling was more blase.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
I find the "normal" failures much more annoying. They are simple inconveniences rather than events.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
I don't think New Yorkers ever thought highly of Con Edison.
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
The city and society as a whole changed so much in the intervening 12 years. 1965 seemed to bring out the best in people. It was more civilized. While some areas had that civilized esprit de corps in 1977 there was a definite breakdown of civilized behavior in others. Society as a whole was less civil by 1977.
Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
Yes (please explain)
If yes, please explain:
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 it does. See 10.
Story #35, The Blackout History Project, 3 February 2000, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/35/>.
<< Return to prior page