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Contributed by: [name withheld]
Contributed on: June 4, 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?
For the first blackout, I was in boarding school in Lenox, Mass. I was walking outside, and it seemed as if the town suddenly disappeared. I was afraid there had been some nuclear disaster. We had transistor radios, though, and I soon learned it was a huge power outage. Reports of the helpfullness of people started coming in immediately.

For the second blackout, I was walking across Union Square, just about where someone handed me this inquirey. My brother and I were coming back from dinner at Luchow's when the city went dark. We suspected a blackout since we'd both been through the first one, and everyone in the streets was pretty relaxed. Someone outside his building had a radio and at first, there was some talk that people were being helpfull, but we could hear the sirens starting up, and there was a lot of yelling. We felt it might be dangerous to stay in the street.

Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Human error and overload

What is your opinion regarding the general causes of power failures (blackouts)?
Some are more preventable than others

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?
The first blackout was significant because before it happened it was inconceivable. The second blackout was significant because it indicated there had been a disturbing cultural shift.

How did the blackout(s) affect you?
See above

What happened to your perception of the blackout(s) when you heard the news about the full scope of the event(s)?
You couldn't really imagine how extensive they were without hearing the radio reports

How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Normal power failures are over soon and not as socially disruptive.

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):
As above. People behaved differently. In the first one, people took care of each other. The second one was an oppurtunity for anarchy.

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:
Yes, that is exactly how I remember it.

Cite as: Anonymous, Story #86, The Blackout History Project, 4 June 2000, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/86/>.
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