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Contributed by: Hope S. Maynard
Contributed on: July 28, 2005

Which blackout(s) did you experience?
1977 (New York City 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?
It was the summer of 1977 and I was 10 years old. I live in Bushwick projects in Brooklyn. Back in those days, kids could kind of hang out without there parents, but not to far. All my friends who were neighbors hung out on the terrace which we all shared. It was probably around 9:00pm or 10:00pm. Next thing I hear this explosion it sounded like thunder, and then all the lights went out. Everyone scrambled for their houses. We lived on the 18th floor, so you know the elevators ceased to exist, and then the water stopped running, and it was hot,hot, hot. This area of Brooklyn was hit really bad with stealing. There were many furniture stores and family business that were wiped out. I know of a family they had about 10 brothers and sisters. They lived on the 20th floor, and managed to get a whole living room set. I think they eventually furnished their whole house. It took a long time for this neighborhood to recover.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
I think it was just a heatwave that went above and beyond its call of nature. I don't remember too many hot summers when I was a child, but this one was serious, and I don't think tht New York was ready for that. I also think it was just a little peace of New York History.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
I don't think people know how to conserve energy, but at the same time, I think there should be some serious investigations into our power supply and how it can be made stronger. In the blackout of 2003, I walked the Williamsburg Bridge, and had to walk 14 flights with water to bath in. I think with all our technology there must be ways to make sure that these situtations don't happen in the future, because when it does, its really hard on many families, especially elderly people and children.

Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
1977 only

Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
Because the summer of 1977 was a great year, there was great music and fashion. We had the Son of Sam running around, and all of these events just seem to go with 1977. The blackout just was really a big event for those who were too young or werent born to remember 1965 and I would never think that it could happen here.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
The blackout didn't effect me in a negative way, it was a little scary and exciting. It was just something that I will always remember.

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
As I got older and realized the impact of what had happened, after hearing my parents discuss it from their own memories and my childhood memories, I realized that even though it probably felt good to get a pair of sneakers, or some furniture, peoples lives were ruined, financially and otherwise, and I really began to see the wrong in it.

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
I've experienced 2 major blackout 1977 and 2004. They were both the same to me, an inconvenience, but 2004 was definitely shorter than 1977 that lasted for almost 2-3 days if my memory is correct.

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
Not much at all, I was only 10 years old.

If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
I only experienced 1977

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:
I keep a lot of candles around and extra water.

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 remember the looting in 1977 and the fires. New York was basically in a state of chaos.

Cite as: Hope S. Maynard, Story #432, The Blackout History Project, 28 July 2005, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/432/>.
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