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August 6, 1999
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 lived in Farmingdale, Long Island-Blackouts werent so unusual then-the protocol was to go look outside and see if all the houses were dark, or just a block or so-if they all were, just wait it out-if only your block or a few, try to call the electric company to let them know. I remember huntng through my toys for batteries for the flashlights and radio and being quite thrliled when Mom pulled out the household candles-always looked so spooky and Halloween like, and she would hold them beneath her chin and we'd make funny faces. I was 10 and my sister was 6. My Dad-a Nassau County Police Officer-was either called back in to work or stayed late, I dont recall which but I"m sure he was gone because of it. Neighbors visited around, and I recall hearing from the grownups that it was a big deal, not just our local area, and wondering why they were so surprised by that. Much discussion over the next few weeks on TV and radio, and speculations about Russian sabotage and UFO's as causes. Total amazement at the looting. I remember sitting in the dentists waiting room a few days later and reading a magazine ?LIFE or LOOK, and the articles in it-that was the first time I realized how big it was. Also the first time I ever saw custom made" I Survived" T shirts. It was a big deal on Johnny Carsons momologue for a long time, too.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
I dont recal the causes
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
failure of the system tolerate outside insult or inside failure of some type
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
It was a significant event at that time in my childhood because of the social consquences, and it was one of the very first things that opened my eyes to life beyond my own small neighborhood and how it affected me.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
At the time it was fun
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
It became an urban legend type of event
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
larger scope and much more news coverage
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
Yes (please explain)
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 think there was some looting in 65-just not much and it was referred to as "those people in the slums" by the adults in my middle class neighborhood
Story #5, The Blackout History Project, 6 August 1999, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/5/>.
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