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It was 5:16 p.m., November 9. . . .

It seemed to me that the blackout quite literally transformed the people of New York. . . .

Shortly before 5:15 in the evening, . . .

If you can't even trust Con Ed, can you trust the Pentagon?

It could have been the time of panic so long predicted. . . .

By 11 in the evening New York had adjusted to the adventure. . . .

Luck, goodwill and a brilliant moon saved New York from disaster. . . .

If you were almost anywhere between Toronto and Boston or New York . . .

As a result of the incident of November 9-10, . . .

Have we in the engineering profession become so self-satisfied . . .

The majority of the power experts with whom the writer consulted . . .

What is the ethical responsibility of the engineer in industry to the public, . . .

An outstanding aspect of the public response . . .

The notion that the 1965 blackout was responsible for a bumper crop of babies nine months later was pretty well debunked by J. Richard Udry in 1970

It was 5:16 p.m., November 9 . . .

All of a sudden the lights went out. First in Southern Canada, then in Boston, then in New York City, the electricity blinked off. Within minutes, before anybody knew what was happening, the greatest blackout in history engulfed a vital area of the Northeast. At least 30 million people were caught in the dark shroud that spread into eight States and Ontario, Canada. In one of the greatest industrial complexes on earth, almost everything came to a standstill. Nobody panicked. But a shudder of foreboding raced across the United States and around the world. The question everywhere: "It happened there. Could it happen here?"

The full text from which this excerpt was taken is available in the archive:
US News and World Report
, pg. 40.

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It seemed to me that the blackout quite literally transformed the people of New York . . .

Ordinarily smug and comfortable in the high lives of the city where they live and work, they are largely strangers to one another when the lights are on. In the darkness they emerged, not as shadows, but far warmer and more substantial than usual. Stripped of the anonymity that goes with full illumination, they became humans conscious of and concerned about the other humans around them. In the crowded streets businessmen, coats removed so that their light-colored shirts could be seen, became volunteer cops and directed traffic. Though the sidewalks were jammed, there was little of the rude jostling that is a part of normal, midday walking in New York. In the theatrically silver light of a perfect full moon (a must for all future power failures) people peered into the faces of passersby like children at a Halloween party trying to guess which friends hide behind which masks. In fact, the darkness made everyone more childlike. There was much laughter, and as they came down the stairs of the great office buildings in little night processions led by men with flashlights and candles, people held hands with those they could not see.

The full text from which this excerpt was taken is available in the archive:
"A Dark Night to Remember," Life, pg. 35.

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Shortly before 5:15 in the evening, . . .

somewhere along the great triple-conductor line that runs from Niagara Falls to New York City in three wrist-thick strands of iron-core aluminum, a surge of electrical energy went berserk. Whether a switching device had failed to operate, whether somewhere in the vast Northeast power grid a giant generator had suddenly gone out of phase, whether a computer experienced a nervous breakdown--no one would be able to determine exactly for some time afterward. But at that moment the electric pulse all up and down the great 345-kilovolt line surged, wobbled and flickered; and, like a pinched aorta, it caused an entire civilized to flicker with it.

The full text from which this excerpt was taken is available in the archive:
"What Went Wrong?," pg. 46B

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"If you can't even trust Con Ed, can you trust the Pentagon?"

The full text from which this excerpt was taken is available in the archive:
The Night the Lights Went Out, p.15

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It could have been the time of panic so long predicted. . . .

New York is a city whose morale has long been riddled and whose reputation was shredded once again during a bitter mayoral campaign which had ended exactly one week earlier. New Yorkers expect the worst of each other--as does the nation. Thus, what happened during the next 12 hours was an event of political magnitude fully as important as the implications of the technological breakdown: New Yorkers behaved superbly. Eight million people became friends, neighbors, citizens.

The full text from which this excerpt was taken is available in the archive:
"What Went Wrong?," pg. 51

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By 11 in the evening New York had adjusted to the adventure. . . .

The sound of the streets was a murmur, broken with chatter and gaiety, punctuated occasionally by the grave sound of a siren or ambulance, police car or fire truck. The dead subways had squeezed up their thousands and the streets were afloat with people slowly wending their way to some sort of accommodation--on foot, by the light of the moon. They lined up outside telephone booths to call home. They stood in line behind hamburger counters or jammed into restaurants where the only light came from the gas flares cooking food, or from candles."

The full text from which this excerpt was taken is available in the archive::
"What Went Wrong?," pg. 52

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Luck, goodwill and a brilliant moon saved New York from disaster. . . .

But a thousand 'ifs' pucker in retrospect--'if' it had been a stormy night, with a dozen planes seeking emergency landing; 'if' the breakdown had come at a moment of civil disturbance; 'if' it had come at a moment of international tension--the imagination boggles at what might have been.

The full text from which this excerpt was taken is available in the archive
"What Went Wrong?," pg. 52

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If you were almost anywhere between Toronto and Boston or New York . . .

on the evening of November 9, 1965, the chances are you were affected slightly or inconvenienced greatly; the Great Blackout touched some 30 million people over an area of . . . 80,000 miles from eastern Ontario through New York State and much of New England for periods ranging from a few minutes to 13 1/2 hours" "Had you been a resident or worker in New York City on that evening, you could have been caught aboard a peak-hour subway or commuter train--or between floors in an elevator of a high-rise building. If you were luckier, as was the writer (the lights failed in midtown Manhattan while he was waiting for his wife at the corner of 45th Street and Fifth Avenue), you might have made it to a nearby restaurant for a candlelight dinner, where you could hear ominous reports coming over pocket transistor radios: 'The entire Northeast seaboard has lost power. The FBI and Department of Defense are investigating the possibility of widespread sabotage as a prelude to an enemy attack . . .' or 'UFO's may be responsible for disrupting the earth's magnetic fields . . . ' Admittedly shaken by some of the wild rumors being broadcast or whispered in anxious tones, we trudged homeward through throngs of pedestrians. The eerie darkness was slashed only by the headlamps of motor vehicles."

The full text from which this excerpt was taken is available in the archive:
"The Great Blackout," pg. 85-6

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As a result of the incident of November 9-10, . . .

public confidence in the power industry was shaken. Engineers and laymen are asking some rather pointed questions.


The full text from which this excerpt was taken is available in the archive
"The Northeast Power Failure," pg. 64

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Have we in the engineering profession become so self-satisfied . . .

by our overall technological and scientific achievements that we have lost sight of the potential dangers lurking in emergency or unexpected situation?

The full text from which this excerpt was taken is available in the archive:
"The Northeast Power Failure," pg. 64

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The majority of the power experts with whom the writer consulted . . .

were solidly behind regional integration and power pooling. It was their feeling that, in the balance, interconnections have done more to improve service than to cause trouble.

The full text from which this excerpt was taken is available in the archive:
"The Northeast Power Failure," pg. 70

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What is the ethical responsibility of the engineer in industry to the public, . . .

as compared with his responsibility to the management of his company?"

The full text from which this excerpt was taken is available in the archive:
B.C. Hicks, an engineer in Montreal,
"Comments on the Northeast Power Failure," pg. 87

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An outstanding aspect of the public response . . .

to the blackout was the absence of widespread fear, panic, or disorder. . . . The only contagion of emotions that we could detect in the present study was that individuals perceiving signs of mirth in the behavior of others were themselves more likely to enjoy the blackout.

The full text from which this excerpt was taken is available in the archive::
Public Response to the Northeastern Power Blackout,
pgs. iii-iv

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"The notion that the 1965 blackout was responsible for a bumper crop of babies nine months later was pretty well debunked by J. Richard Udry in 1970, when he showed statistically that the birth rate for the period in question was completely unexceptional [1].

"The legend seems to have gotten its start with a series of articles in the _New York Times_ [2]. Even though some of the people quoted in those articles display a good deal of skepticism, the overall tone leaves one with the impression that everybody started fucking like hound dogs when the lights went out. Maybe they did, but there's no evidence they managed to produce any more babies than usual. . ."

For more on this topic, see also the links and references in this page:
Urban Legends Reference Pages

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jts{27 June 2000}