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This Day In History, 1977: New York City Blackout

Twenty-nine years ago today, on Wednesday, July 13, 1977, a blackout started in New York City that lasted overnight into the next afternoon.

I was seven years old at the time, and I remember the blackout somewhat. According to official reports, events leading to the blackout started at 8:37 PM, and the city was plunged into darkness at roughly 9:30 PM. My brothers and I were in our bedroom, reading by the light of the lamp on the bureau of drawers, when suddenly the light went out. I don't recall if we panicked or not. According to my memories, my father came into the room within seconds with a lit candle in a holder.

The 1977 blackout is infamous for the looting and riots that took place. Ensconced in our house in Forest Hills, none of that affected me. We got the news over a battery-powered radio and then somehow managed to get to sleep that night. My memory tells me that it was a hot night.

I don't recall much of the next day except that we did wait for the power to return. I do remember how we discovered that we had power again. I was outside, standing near the gate and tunnel that led into Forest Close, of which my house was a part. (Basically, the entire block consisted of houses that surrounded a locked in common area of grass and trees.) The tunnel contained a light, and although it was a bright mid-afternoon, we saw that the light had suddenly gone on again. We went back into our house, and sure enough, the power had returned.

References:


Copyright © Michael Burstein

Comments

I respectfully dispute the starttime

I'm quite sure it had to have been 9:37pm. At 8:37pm, it would have still been daylight out. I was 8 at the time, and I remember bedtime at 9pm with the lights still on. My mom told me that shortly after I fell asleep, the lights went out at about 9:30. When I woke up the next morning, none of the switcxhes worked, but then the lights and TV came on by themselves at about 8 in the morning.

Re: I respectfully dispute the starttime

Let me see if I can find another reference...and if you run across any, do let me know.

Re: I respectfully dispute the starttime

OK, apparently the events leading to the blackout started at 8:37 PM, but the city itself went into darkness around 9:30. I've edited the above; thanks!

Re: I respectfully dispute the starttime

ah ok, then we're both right in a way. :)
I have vivid memories of the gas lines and the hostage crisis as well. For the gas lines, I have one memory of being in the car with my Mom as we're in a long line waiting to fill up at the gas station across Queens Blvd. For the hostage crisis, I remember the announcement of their release. We were in music class at the time and the teacher spontaneously broke into the Star-Spangled Banner.

(By the way, um, that icon kinda violates my journal policy against obscenity in comments...)
Thank you! (Although I didn't mean for you to change your default...you could always repost.)
I was in Israel at the time, working on a Kibbutz, so my mother may have written to me abput the blackout, but I don't have personal memories. I do remember the Northeast Blackout of 1965. I was 8 and there was a Book Fair at my synagogue. My mother was the Nursery School Teacher, so she knew where the supply of shabbas candles were kept. :-)

BTW, I also remember the gas lines. I was totally bummed that the gas crises hit right before I got my driver's license. The speed limits were lowered and the rpice of gas went up (but I wish that I could pay those prices now...)
I was actually in South Carolina visiting relatives. So I missed it.

We had to toss everything out when we got home. The fridge was a science experiment.
I was in New Jersey at the time, and fortunately my grandparents, who still lived in Brooklyn, were visiting us. I remember being up at night listening to the radio and hearing about the looting.

And being vaguely disappointed I'd missed it all. I was, after all, not quite fourteen.
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