The night the lights went out:
How many people remember that night of the Northeast Power Failure?
Mary Ann Cartner does. With her permission, I share with you now her personal account of that very scary event:
“It was a dark, cold and rain-stormy night in Buffalo, New York on November 9, 1965. I was expecting my first child and was home alone as my husband was working the night shift.
“I lay on the couch covered with an afghan while listening to a Canadian radio station. The music playing was soothing and I started to doze off when suddenly it sounded as though the music was playing on a warped record.
“The lights went out. The room was silent except for the sound of heavy raindrops on the parlor windows. There was total darkness and I thought a fuse blew, but I had no flashlight so I couldn’t take the chance to get to the basement.
“I eventually found the way to my bedroom and was happy that we had a gas space heater to keep me warm until the power finally came back on. My son was born two days later on Nov. 11, 1965.”
I thank Mary Ann for her memory-sharing and for suggesting a website about the ‘Power Failure” that, according to the New York Times, not only snarled the Northeast, but left 800,000 caught in subways in NYC, tied up auto traffic, left the city groping in the dark, and lasted for 13 hours.
“The snarl at rush hour in New York City spread into nine northeastern states and two provinces of southeastern Canada. Some 80,000 square miles, in which perhaps 25 million people live and work,” the reporter Peter Kihss wrote.
The lights and the power went out first at 5:17 p.m. somewhere along the Niagara frontier of New York state and spread outward from there. “The tripping of automatic switches hurled the blackout eastward across the state” and all over the northeast… “It was like a pattern of falling dominoes,” he said.
While some people wondered if sabotage was the cause, that idea was dismissed by the government and soon after President Lyndon Johnson called for a study of the power failure and a task force was formed.
In Popular Culture:
With my curiosity wetted by Mary Ann’s email and the write up in the New York Times, I googled Wikipedia (the free online encyclopedia) to learn what the study showed.
“The cause of the failure was human error,” it basically said, and that “a lack of voltage and current monitoring was a contributing factor to the blackout.”
That discounts the sabotage notion but, if you’re a fan of UFO sightings, this is what the section of Wikipedia entitled “In Popular Culture” has to say about an idea that continues to float around even today:
“When no cause for the blackout was immediately apparent, several UFO writers (including John G. Fuller, in his book Incident at Exeter) postulated that the blackout was caused by UFOs. This was evident by numerous sightings of UFOs near Syracuse prior to the blackout.”
Well, Dear Reader, I don’t know much about UFOs in and around Syracuse or anywhere else, but I do know that Mary Ann’s recollection is sure to prompt a lot of memories for many of you out there.
Do you remember what were you doing that dark night 48 years ago? (PS: not every place in the Northeast had a long blackout because they had their power plant.)
As it has become the custom over the years — my mother used to do it and before her my grandmother — I will be hosting several of my family members to sit down to a turkey dinner with all the trimmings with Ed and me on Thanksgiving Day.
Actually, everyone — men and women and children — help out with the food, the table setting up and the cleaning up afterward. I couldn’t do it other wise.
As I tell my kids, I want to do it as long as I can. When I can’t, I say, they will have to take over at one of their houses!
My mother’s been gone a year and I miss her. My grandmother’s been gone several years and I still miss her. That’s how it goes, years fly by and people you love come and go.
That’s why, as I grow older, I have become more aware of this “sunrise, sunset” thing they sing about in “Fiddler on the Roof”.
We humans sure do fiddle a lot of our life away, spending too much of our time on things that don’t really count.
Why aren’t we grateful for the goodness in our lives instead of dwelling on all the bad things we have no control over? Who cares if So and So does such and such? Aren’t they struggling with how to get through this life like everybody else is?
Watching the news on TV and seeing so much misery in this world makes me wonder what the heck I have to complain about.
Sure, I have my share of old age aches and pains, but who doesn’t? And sure, my house is not quite as tidy as it used to be, but who’s to judge?
And if I sit in my recliner with my feet up and rest a little more than I used to, so what? I have it good. That’s all there is to it. I hope you do, too. Happy Bird-day, everyone.
Now, here’s my caveat: Reader beware! I write for fun. I am not a historian, nor a reporter. I write from memory and from what others want to share. Sometimes I look things up; sometimes I mess things up.
I hope you have fun reading my stuff. Your comments, additions and corrections are always welcome.
You may contact me at 133 Tannery Lane, Fulton, phone 592-7580 or email JHogan@aol.com. Please put Jerry’s Journal in the subject line. Thanks!