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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.

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Copyright © Michael Burstein

Comments

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...)
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