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May 30, 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?
At the time of the 1965 blackout I was a Freshman at New Hyde Park Memorial High School on Long Island. My class was in the gym when it happened. This was during the period of nuclear war fears and air raid drills, so when my classmate, Richard Fixler, said that tghe blackout was caused by a nuclear bomb, it was pretty frightening, even though I was certain that this was not really the cause.
I have a number of strong memories of the 1977 blackout. I was living on West 91st Street in Manhattan at the time, and working in the federal courthouse at 26 Federal Plaza. I got to use my parent's Broadway show tickets that night, because traffic was so bad that they couldn't make it into the City. I actually don't recall what the show was, or if it even went on, because of the blackout. I do remember walking north on Church Street to Sixth Avenue to the theater district, along with many of my colleagues and thousands of other stranded New Yorkers. I also remember the Federal Judge for whom I worked being assigned a case in which individuals who had been arrested as "looters" were claiming that they had been denied due process. I believe that they were represented by William Kunstler. While I remember the 1965 blackout as somewhat frightening and a bother, I remember the 1977 one as fun.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
My recollection of the 1965 blackout was that is was related to some switch or systems problems that turned a local problem into a broad-based one. I believe that the 1977 power outage was due to exceptionally high usage, and the power network's inability to handle it.
What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Generally, they were due to unusually high electric usage that was not anticipated, and the power company's failure to anticipate such occurrences and account for them. Now, I believe that there are far better techniques to deal with high electric usage.
Did either blackout seem significant or shocking at the time?
Why did you consider the blackout(s) to be significant or insignificant?
I was unsure of the cause or how long it would last (possibly days or more).sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
Same as I.2 above.
What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
Particularly in 1965, it was incredible that the entire Northeast could lose power. For 1977, most people pulled together to help one another.
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
They lasted much longer, and, of course, because of the extent are much more memorable. Because of the extent of the outages, the 1965 and 1977 events were ultimately exciting, and a challenge, while "normal" power outages are generally just irksome.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
If you experienced both the 1965 and 1977 blackouts, please compare them (describe the ways in which they were similar/different):
The blackouts themselves seemed similar, although I was in entirely different circumstances in my life.
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:
Serious health and safety problems for many.
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 stories of looting in New York City during the 1977 blackout, but I do not recollect that it was a "devastating wave." I suspect that since crime and looting were bigger issues in 1977, they got more press coverage than in 1965.
Story #85, The Blackout History Project, 30 May 2000, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/85/>.
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