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June 13, 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?
At the time I was working for NY Telephone on the west side of Mahattan. I left work at 5 o'clock and proceded to the 50St. station of the IND E train for my normal ride home to Queens. After pulling out of Queens Plaza and going past 36St., the train slowly came to a halt. Back then there were no PA systems on the trains, so for a while we just assumed it was rush hour train problems. Luckily someone in our car had a transistor radio with them and that's how we soon found out what was really happening. The normal lighting in the cars went out, but each did have a few emergency lites so we weren't totally in the dark. I remember everyone talking about what it must be like up top, it was hard to immagine everywhere in darkness. The train crew did come around to confirm the news but told us we would have to stay right where we were, where could we go, we were in the middle of a blackened tunnel under the city streets. In the same car as me was a guy I had graduated high school with 4 years earlier, so we struck up a conversation. People were concerned but there was no panic, there wasn't much we could do. Everyone thought that it wouldn't be long before electric would be restored and we would be rolling again. Little did we know. About 8 0'clock (I didn't where watches then) we were told that we would be taken off the train in groups of 10 and to be led along the catwalk to an emergency exit furthur up the track, starting from the first car (luck was with me , I was in my usual 3rd car from the front). Everyone was of course glad but some concerned about leaving the train and venturing into the tunnel which is dimly lit on normal days. Well needless to say the depature moved slow. The train crew had to light the way with a couple of flashlites to the exit, which was probably about 50 yards down the track, and come back for 10 more people from trains that were packed shoulder to shoulder. Everyone was feeling good, now that they knew it was just a matter of time. One person did have some worry and asked if there were any rats in the tunnels, but was assured by some veteran rider that they get eaten by the alligators so there was nothing to worry about. We wre doing okay in spite of the circumstances. My turn came and I moved along with the others in my group along the catwalk till we came to a small arched exit way which led to a small metal stair up to a street grating which was manded by TA personnel. Finally back on top, the only lights were from cars trying to get home. We came up on about 44St. Long Island City. What a sight, or lack of. Who would ever think they would see their city in darkness, it was an adventure. We were fine, glad to be moving again even if it was by foot. I started walking east on Northern Blvd., buses were full and few and far between. Met some people along the way, we were all in the same boat and going in the same direction, smiling, wondering what actually happened, making jokes along the way. We would get home from work today, just aliitle later than usual. I walked all the way home to Fresh Meadows that night, maybe 8 miles. My parents were home listening to my small transistor radio for the latest news. Had something to eat and decided to continue the adventure at my local watering hole. We sat by candle light drinking slowly warming beer, telling all our stories, laughing, all of us experts now on surviving a blackout. Quite an experience. When power was restored, it was back to the subways and work as if the whole occurance was just a blip in the daily routine.
Why did the blackouts happen, in your opinion?
Unforseen circumstances, complacency
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?
I don't think anyone could have imagined that this could happen and it showed how vulnerable we could be.
How did the blackout(s) affect you?
Not much, back to normal in no time
How would you compare the blackout(s) to "normal" power failures you have experienced at other times?
Normal power failures are not uncommon around my neighborhood.
What affect, if any, did the blackout(s) have on your opinion of Consolidated Edison Company?
It certainly lowered it to some degree
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?
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:
Yes I believe that's true. A lot had happened between those years which had big impact on our society.
Story #93, The Blackout History Project, 13 June 2000, <http://blackout.gmu.edu/details/93/>.
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