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Contributed by: [name withheld]
Contributed on: May 15, 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 had just arrived home from high school in Queens County, New York City, when the lights in my home flickered and then slowly faded to black. A quick look out the front window showed that the whole block was dark. A battery-powered radio revealed the wider extent of the problem. My older brother took a flashlight to direct traffic on Atlantic Avenue. I walked ten blocks to stay with my grandmother. My aunt, who lived with her, arrived home from work in Manhattan after a five hour journey that included a walk across the 59 Street Bridge, and a taxi ride shared with four strangers.

When I arrived back home, my father had rigged up electrical light, using an old car battery, two spare headlights and some lampcord. We never did let the neighbors know why our house was brightly lit.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Assuming that interconnecting the power grid would only have positive effects. No one anticipated the potential for a massive cascading overload when a relay failed to trip off.

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?
1965 was significant because we lost our trusting innocence in technology. However, the nobility, generosity and common sense that prevailed were a cause for justifiable pride in the reliability of humanity. Alas, the rioting and looting in the 1977 blackout pointed out that the human spirit was capable of cascading failure, not just the electrical grid.

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

Cite as: Anonymous, Story #74, The Blackout History Project, 15 May 2000, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/74/>.
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