Blackout


My father was rather fearless, or so it seemed to me when I was a kid. Very little in the world seemed to ruffle him. If he were upset by the Cuban missle crisis, I never saw it. When Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, he went to Binghamton’s downtown to try to keep a lid on the violence that ended up devastating other cities.

The ONLY time I ever saw him lose his cool due to events external to the family was the blackout of November 9, 1965, forty years ago today. He suggested that the event, which covered 13 states and two Canadian provinces, was perhaps a communist plot. I NEVER heard my father mention communism, except in passing, and certainly never as something that he particularly feared. When my father was worried, I was worried, even if I didn’t quite believe that the blackout was a function of a Red menace.

As a result of that event, “the powers that be” said that the power would never go out in that fashion ever again. And, of course, that proved to be true, if you don’t count some smaller incidents, such as the 1977 blackout in NYC.

Until August 14, 2003.

The thing I most remember about that day: practically the first thing I heard about that blackout was the authorities eliminating the possibility that the event was related to terrorism. (That, and the fact that in Albany, every fourth traffic light was working. Our office lost power, but our house was out for only five minutes or so.)

So, where is the line between taking legitimate precautions and living in fear? More and more, I know less and less. I tend to lean against what I consider to be the position of paranoia, but maybe I’m just naive.

(Thanks again to FGH for the photo scan.)