Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Lightning struck many times on the night of July 13, 1977 and the city of New York went dark. Where were you on that night? Thankfully, I wasn't anywhere near New York City; I was a wee child at home in Austin with my parents, my sister was not even a month old. I read "for the 25 hours it lasted, it stopped commerce, stymied transportation, blackened the night, sheltered the lawless, turned high rises into prisons, made water a luxury and air conditioning a nostalgic memory" (Newsweek, July 25, 1977). Can you imagine what that must have been like? It must have been exhilarating exciting and frightening. This would be a spot in history that many people remember just what they were doing when it when the towers fell or when JFK was shot. In fact, if you read the comments in the New York Times 30th anniversary article about it, you'll see that many people do.

Very similar to the weather we're having in Austin now, New York City was living in just as sweltering heat. The thermostat hit 93 in the city that day, add in the over 1000 arson fires, and you can say it was mighty hot. In addition to the looting, fires, and general debauchery, the city was reeling in fear of the Son of Sam murderer. David Berkowitz was arrested in August, just after the blackout occurred. Now imagine that, it's pitch black out, there are fires all over the city, thousands of people are in chaotic disarray and there's a murderer on the loose. Yikes.

Here's a few items to get your imagination running on these conditions.

Heat: Juliane Fry's The Encyclopedia of Weather and Climate Change: a Complete Visual Guide
Blackouts: David Nye's When the Lights Went Out: a History of Blackouts in America
Son of Sam: Spike Lee's Summer of Sam

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