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July 14, 2005
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?
The BlackOut in 1965, I was 3. I remember being in the kitchen, in our New York City Apartment and there were no lights. We lived on the 20th floor in Manhattanville Projects on 126th street, & Broadway. I could only remember my mom at the window.She was telling me and my older brother, that nobody had lights. It was still a little bit of daylight, and she had us looking out the window. I remember the trains not running, and mom said people were stuck, and she was looking for my dad to come home. It was close to bed time, and we had to go to sleep. It makes me wonder how long my mom stayed up that night. I remember everything being dark in the place, and my mom had candles.
In 1977, I was in what we called, "the big park" about a half of a block from our apartment building. I was with friends just talking, and laughing, sitting around. The street lights blinked , and we didnt think about it too much the first time. we said, you saw that?, and then, the lights flickered two more times. It was almost dark, and the lights flicked a third time, but...they didnt come back on! We heard people screaming, and started back towards our building. When we got there, everyone was gathering. Parents were outside. it was dark now, and some people had big flashlights. , the elevators were broke, some of us lived on higher floors, my family lived on the 16th floor. everyone was looking for someone. everyone had their own specific way/unique way of calling out to someone. some had certain whistles, some had signals, like my mom, she would put the kitchen curtain out the window when it was time to come home. yes, that curtain was out the window that nite.All you could see is flashlites, and heard people calling and whistling out for eachother. my friends and I sat on some cars near the street, and was able to see across the Hudson River to New Jersey. We were amazed that was the only lights we saw! It was dark everywhere else!. Then, all the guys from Manhattanville Projects gathered together, and found all of us girls, rounded us up , and told us we had to go home, and we were mad. we didnt want to go home because this was exciting to us. We put up a fuss but they walked us all back to the building, walked each of us up the stairs(no matter what floor we lived on-2nd floor to 20th floor), and they were allowed to go back out for the duration. People were stuck everywhere. In trains,and in elevators., some had groceries, shopping carts full, and couldnt get home! We didnt even have water. Food was spoiling in the refrigerator, and freezers., but we were able to cook because we had gas stoves. We were caught totally off guard. You could hear people all nite long-the Phrase-"The City Never Sleeps" is True! When daylight came, the only source of water was the Fire hydrant. So, of course we were all hiking up and down stairs to get water to cook with, and bathe. I can't remember how many trips I made down 16 flights, and up again
That morning when daylight hit, the lights were still out, and we heard people talking of the stuff they stole from stores. It wasnt until the lights came back on 23 hours later when we found out about the looting, robbing. You could go down 125th street, and people were selling everything from a t shirt, to tv's. just about anything you wanted was on sale. "hot merchandise" . There was a sneaker warehouse about 6 blocks from us going uptown, it was broken into, so, yes, sneakers were on sale too. according to news reports there were about 2500 people arrested that night for looting.and lives were lost. It was ugly. I'm glad the guys made us go home that night.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
We were in a heatwave., temperatures reached 100, or above. The projects, where we lived had no air conditioning, but circuits for those who had it ,may have been overloaded- businesses, and those who were lucky to have air conditioning.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
circuit overload due to the heat wave.
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?
significant, because it was history. people lost their lives,were injured, arrested,It was also an historic econimical loss for many homes and businesses.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
the black out forever left a memory, taught me more how to survive in circumstances beyond my control.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
nothing changed. technology has changed so much since then, somewhat for the better., but, we still cannot change Mother Nature.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
a regular power failure due to storms is nothing compared to what happened that day. I now prepare for storms-batteries, flashlights, battery operated tv's, I track storms, and stay prepared for whatever.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
con ed did the best they could under those circumstances.
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
I was younger in 1965, and didnt understand what was really going on. 1977, we were teenagers, living in the city, people were "hungry", and unfortunately jumped at stupid chances to get rich quick.some got away.
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
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:
Not really true. there was Manhattanville projects, and Grant Projects right across the street. These projects were somewhat rivals, but when the blackout happened, everyone was mostly on one accord no matter what words we had before it.
Story #411, The Blackout History Project, 14 July 2005, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/411/>.
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