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Contributed by: Eleanor Imondi-Clarkin
Contributed on: August 9, 2006

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?
In 1965, I was working for the telephone company in Rhode Island, when this blackout occurred. They would not let anyone leave, even beyond their shift. People were calling, frightened. It was a bit exciting as I look back. I was newly engaged at that time, and I was on the telphone with my boyfriend's parents asking if they needed anything. The blackout was a scary time, but I was so much younger and it was kind of exciting as well! Thank you.

Eleanor

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Well, someone in the telephone office had the radio on, and the news as I can remember, was that the reason for the blackout was uncertain at the time.

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Overuse, too many people using electricity at the same time and near the same hour. Very few people want to sacrafice and discomfort, it seems.

Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
1965 only

Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
Well, it certainly was significant! It involved so many cities of course.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
Just had to remain on the job as a telephone operator. People calling in were very frightened!


What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
I don't remember.

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Well again, certainly it was so widespread and wasn't a normal power failure. It's affect left many people frightened and unable to cope for a time.

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
I was too young and uninformed at that time!

If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
I don't remember the 1977 blackout very well. I don't know why. Yes, I do remember. I had lost a child in 1977, so the blackout seemed insignificant in comparison.

Did the blackout(s) have any larger meaning in your mind?
Yes (please explain)

If yes, please explain:
Well, I guess it would be the job I was working at, telephone operator. I felt as though I was a comfort to those calling and frightened.

Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
No

How did the blackout(s) affect your daily reliance on electricity?
Became less reliant

If other, please specify:
I became more aware of using or not using when unnecessary.

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:
N/A

Cite as: Eleanor Imondi-Clarkin, Story #627, The Blackout History Project, 9 August 2006, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/627/>.
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