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                               The Great Black Out of 1965


by MLBaron westislandweather.com

     FAIRHAVEN: On Tuesday, November 9th, 1965 a Fairhaven boy was celebrating his 8th birthday. When he blew out the candles on his birthday cake the lights flickered then went completely out at 5:27PM over the entire northeast. It was the beginning of the largest wide spread power black out in US history.
They relit the candles to see in the darkened dining room with about 15 fellow kids that attended the party. The boy’s parents thought the house just blew a fuse and later realized the magnitude of the outage via a battery powered radio.    

     Over 30 million people were affected including some provinces in Canada. Everything went dark. Patients in the middle of surgery, people in subways were trapped in darkness from New York to Canada and most states in between. A plane was getting ready to land when the runway disappeared. 1700 Passengers from a powerless subway train were rescued from a bridge in New York. The only light source was from the full moon and vehicles.
     There was panic and concern of a possible Soviet attack. This was considered one of the greatest threats to national security since we were just getting over the brink of nuclear war with The Soviet Union and The Cuban Missile Crisis a couple years back and our president was assassinated. National paranoia was at a peak.

     The war in Vietnam was escalating. The nation was in turmoil with racial riots. Nuclear missile silo crews were on full alert shortly after the outage. The intercontinental ballistic missiles were fired up and the rockets steaming ready to go.  They were raised on the launch pads from their concrete bunkers. We were at DEFCON1. The highest defense condition for the US military. The bulk of these nuclear missiles had pre-determined targets deep inside The Soviet Union including Moscow. The launch keys were in place. It took two keys to launch in a particular silo by two different crew  members and send us into Armageddon.      
     The fact was that we didn’t know who we were going to shoot at. We weren’t sure what was going on. Chaos was rampant as the darkness grew from minutes to hours. In Massachusetts a full scale riot in a maximum security prison in Walpole ensued. Over 300 prisoners went on a 2 hour rampage requiring State Troopers from over 16 barracks across the state to quell the riots.        

     The Statue of Liberty stayed lit through the entire ordeal while Manhattan was totally in the dark along with 9 states and three Canadian provinces. It was discovered that the power for the torch came from New Jersey which for the most part wasn’t affected by the outage because they were on a different power grid.
The outage was blamed by a massive power failure in Ontario, Canada and spread to the Northeast and lasted about 11 hours but it was never proven as to the exact cause. The rumors abounded of sabotage because of the wide spread outage where 42 power plants across the Northeast were knocked out simultaneously.
     One can just imagine how a power outage of this magnitude (80,000 square miles) would affect us today with our internet and computer systems knocked out.    
    
     The boy told his mother that he never wanted candles on his birthday cakes again.
That young boy..... was me.



For more information on this story read :
“The Night The Lights Went Out”
Published by The New York Times 1965
A rare Signet paperback book

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