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Contributed by: [name withheld]
Contributed on: March 24, 2000

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 home with my mother. We were sitting in the kitchen listening to some talk radio show. As the lights in our house flickered for a second, we heard the talk show host say that the lights just dimmed in the studio. A short while later, (I think it was only a few seconds, but I'm not sure) the lights went out. I went to get my transistor radio, but there was nothing to receive for a while (again, I have no idea how long) but eventually stations came back on the air. I don't know how long it was before we realized the scope of the problem.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
It's an imperfect world.

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 always liked, even as a teenager in 1965, the way a disruption, such as a power failure or major snow storm, could tie up an entire city. I found it rather humbling to see a city with the size and energy of New York brought to a standstill. It's always been a great reminder for me that we are not really in control, no matter how much we like to believe we are, and I'm constantly surprised to find that more people don't see that.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
To me it was an adventure. I liked having candles and flashlights all over the house. I remember having a great time that night reading by candlelight...I don't know why I got such a kick out of it, but the memory stands out. I'm sure my parents weren't happy about having to get rid of any food that went bad, and I'm sure my father's business (wholesale foods) took a big hit.

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
Only that it was bigger than I already assumed. I was in Rockaway Beach, and the radio station we were listening to was in Manhattan, so we had a pretty good idea that the blackout was city-wide. If anything changed, it was my realization that one blip could power down such a large part of the country.

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?
Yes (please explain)

If yes, please explain:
See above - we're not really in control.

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 remember hearing about people in Manhattan getting out of their cars to direct traffic at intersections, with rush hour drivers actually cooperating. Why it was different in 1977, I don't know. I've never even thought about the difference in the way the city reacted between the two blackouts until now.

Cite as: Anonymous, Story #52, The Blackout History Project, 24 March 2000, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/52/>.
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