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Contributed by: [name withheld]
Contributed on: May 19, 2000

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?
I lived in New York during

both blackouts -- 1965 I was 8 years old and have vivid memories of apartment living, the lights going out and being frightened that my father would not get home from his job in Manhattan. Well, he did and very late I might add, and not too worse for the walk as he and his pals stopped at many spots along the way for some "refreshment" to sustain

them! (We lived in Ridgewood, on the borderline of Brooklyn and Queens). I don't remember why the blackout happened, as I was very young, but I recall sitting on the living room floor and looking up at our very small screened television set (I think I was watching Sonny Fox or something) -- and then telling my mother in the kitchen that there was something wrong with the TV. Then the lights went out (it was still early evening, as I recall so it didn't become frightening until later when we had to resort to flashlights and candles). Of course our six family apartment building was all a flutter with people going up and down stairs all evening. I was upset that I wasn't aload to go up and down the street with the older kids who had flashlights -- my mom made me stay in. I had trouble with the concept that the trains (subway) ran on electricity and that's why my dad had to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

In 1977 I wasn't actually in the city at the time of the blackout. We

were on a family car trip heading home from visiting relatives in Texas

and heard the news about the blackout and the subsequent looting, rioting, etc. When we got up the next morning for breakfast we were in a diner in Illinois or something and I remember being embarrassed to order my food

as I didn't want the waitress to know I was from New York because I was sure she would think I was a criminal or something!

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
I think the '65 blackout was lightning or something striking something on or near power generators in upstate New York, but I am not sure.

'77 I think was caused by overload during the heat of summer?

(Amazing considering that we didn't even HAVE air conditioning then and now I wouldn't dream that anyone wouldn't have it!)

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
I have none

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

Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
'65 I think was significant because I believe it was the first to happen on that scope and my mother was genuinely amazed that something like that could be allowed to happen and cripple transportation, etc.

What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
We didn't think much of ConEd over the years I grew up in New York.

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

Did the blackout(s) cause any profound crisis?
Yes (please explain)

If yes, please explain:
'77 was the pinnacle of disgust for people outside of New York. To see that lawlessness could occur to such an extreme just because the power went off, I believe lowered the opinion of so many people across the US that to this day there still is some negative perception of New York and New Yorkers.

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:
That's about the size of it. Can it be explained because in those ten years people/times changed so drastically? in '65 people were emerging from the innocence of the fifties?

Cite as: Anonymous, Story #81, The Blackout History Project, 19 May 2000, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/81/>.
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