Monday, November 9, 2015

The Great Blackout-1965

I was 11 years old and my Mom was getting dinner ready at about 5:25 when the radio station (WABC- 770 AM) went dead for a minute and then came back on. There was a "blackout" of all electrical power on the entire Eastern Seaboard!

Coming only 2 years after JFK's assassination and amid the height of the Cold War no one knew what was really happening. The trains stopped running, traffic signals ceased and traffic became one big gridlock.

We waited and waited for our lights to go out too, but nothing happened! There was an underground transformer beneath Avenue R between East 13th and 14th Streets. This was what kept us in lights. I don't really understand how it worked but it did.

My Dad got home about 7:30 or 8 PM. I'm not sure if he drove or walked. But after he had eaten we took a stroll through the neighborhood. There were policeman directing traffic with flashlights and Auxilary Policeman assisiting where needed. There was no crime, no looting, no panic.

It was the first time I had ever seen the surrounding neighborhood plunged into darkness and it reminded me of all the stories my Mom told about the Blackouts and Air Raid Drills during World War Two.

The neighbors in our apartment building had their doors all opened to the hallway and everyone was wandering from apartment to apartment. There was concern, but no fear. Mr. and Mrs. Gold, who had fled Nazi Germany, went around the building with John, the German Superintendant and his wife Katie, seeing to it that all the elderly were okay. This was a beautiful thing as John had been a German soldier during the war. And now he and his wife were looking after a building full of Jews.

The whole event was indicative of the times. We had not yet been split asunder by the events of Vietnam, which had just started heating up with the draft. We were a couple of years away from the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. Civility still reigned to some extent.

I often look back to that night. The fear, the suspicions, the uncertainty never hit me. I was safe with my family and my stomach was full. Hell, we even had lights!

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