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July 21, 2006
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?
Blackout of November 9, 1965, Long Island, NY
I was sitting at the dinner table in a high chair. I was almost two. My parents and brothers were passing dishes. The lights were on. One moment these details were invisible, enveloped in the habit of the every day. The next moment, they became my first memory. The light disappeared. Where I'd seen faces, now there was only the dark. The cutlery was still. Breaking silence instead of bread, my mother spoke: "Karen, I'm right here."
Blackout of 1977.
It was a humid, hot summer night. I was babysitting. The children were sleeping. I'd watched a very frightening movie on TV, about a woman who was being stalked. I'd settled in to watch something else. I think this night there was an electrical storm, and I alternately watched the lightening out a window and the TV. Very few lights were on. The TV went black. I was afraid but I knew what had happened. There was a sense of adventure in it. Who else was out there, in the dark?
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
I believe the 1965 blackout occurred because of a problem at ConEd. The 1977 blackout was from storms and/or inability to supply enough juice to population during a heat wave.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
That people should conserve energy, especially during high-use season
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
The first was memory-making. It created a sense of community, as happens during a natural disaster. The second was less surprising, but it still carried a sense of adventure and community
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
It created a sense of the larger community, and of being connected to resources beyond your front door...to the cause and effect of relationships that make up the every day.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
It filled in some gaps, but the feelings around the event stayed the same.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Much more exciting!
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
That they work hard to keep up with a demanding society that isn't used to thinking of energy as something one should conserve and care for.
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
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:
I'd have to know more details surrounding these facts. If it's true, I'd be prone to link cause to economic downturn during the seventies, the VietNam War, a general increased mistrust of authority.
Story #578, The Blackout History Project, 21 July 2006, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/578/>.
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