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One Photo; One Story New York Blackout 1977 (from my eyes).

The New York City blackout is a historical fact. The circumstances

surrounding how the blackout occurred will forever be debated in

my family.

In July of 1977, the heat was unbearable throughout much of the north

eastern United States. A mid summer heat wave had temperatures well over 100 degrees for nearly a week. It was hot, humid and miserable.

Everybody was getting on each others nerves.

I was in Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. I was born

with a kidney condition called Hydronephrosis. The doctor’s at Downstate

were to perform a procedure called a right pyloplasty to repair the damage on July 14, 1977.

During the previous year the pain was so intense I would not be able to

move. When an attack would occur I would be ill for days. In school

I would put my head on the desk and not be able to move no matter how much I was chided by me teachers to get a move on.

My little brother Billy was also a patient at Downstate Medical Center

in the bed right next to me. He was also under observation as well for the same condition although he hadn’t suffered any of the symptoms I had. Therefore Billy was bored and grew to be a very big pain in the ass. He played with everything, the television, the motorized bed, he read the charts, and watched me get every test imaginable. It’s humiliating enough having nurses and doctors looking at your genital area every five minutes but try it with your little brother watching.

On the day before surgery, orderlies came in to shave my body, they were so amused by the fact that I have a third nipple that they kept pointing at it and laughing. They shaved me from head

to toe laughing and pointing to my third nipple that it took them an hour to finish the job. The whole time my little brother watching and laughed along.

If I wasn’t so sick he would have been dead. He took advantage of his

position as the stronger one for the moment. When he wasn’t watching me get poked and prodded, he played with the television. He would not stop changing channels, the TV had only 13 at the time. He would raise and lower the motorized hospital bed over and over and over, up and down, up and down, up and down, up and down. Each time he would make this noise that sounded like “AHHHHHHHHH” meaning he was finally comfortable.

I wished I were dead. No, I wished he were dead. This went on all day.

At 8:37pm on July 13, 1977 my brother Billy raised the bed for the 1,467th time.

He raised it into a a perfect V, head straight up, legs straight up, and he went “AHHHHHHHHHH”. At that moment, elsewhere in Brooklyn, Aunt Irene was plugging in the Air Conditioner……….

I learned this from my parents who stayed with my Uncle Kevin and Aunt Irene in Marine Park, Brooklyn on those nights I was hospitalized.

It was a hot sticky and nasty week. Hazy hot and humid is not a

comfortable mixture when staying with close family. I’m sure my aunt and uncle had problems of their own raising their own kids and the daily grind of everyday life. Besides it was Hot as HELL and who needs visitors around for more than a week while trying to live your own life. I’m sure it was stressful.

My aunt Irene and uncle Kevin were always close to my parents.

My mother and Kevin grew up confidants as kids trying to survive their

neighborhood, life, and parents in the Bronx, New York. So, when

my parents needed a place to stay, my aunt and uncle were there to help.

It’s what family does even though you may get on each others last nerve.

Hazy hot and humid days in New York are brutal. The heat cooks the

bricks all day leaving the insides as hot as an oven all night. In 1977 it

took a lot of electricity to run a window air conditioner unlike the more

energy efficient ones today.

So when Irene wanted to cool down the apartment with a small window

air conditioner an argument broke out. In hind site the small window unit was most likely not strong enough to cool the apartment but it would have helped psychologically. During that heat wave any little bit helped I’m sure.

Aunt Irene; “I’m plugging in the air conditioner, Kevin.”

Uncle Kevin; “No you’re not.”

Irene; “Yes, I am.”

Kevin; “No you’re not.”

Irene; “Yes, I am.”

Kevin; “No you’re not.”

Irene; “I’m doing it.”

Kevin; “No Don’t.”

My Mother; “Aw, Kevin let her plug the fucking thing in.”

Kevin; “NO.”

My Mother; “Irene, plug the fucking thing in, what’s he gonna do about it.”

Irene; “Yeah what are you gonna do about it?”

Kevin; “I’m telling you not to plug it in, you’ll blow a fuse.”

Irene plugged the fucking thing in.

8:37pm July 13, 1977, Irene plugged in the fucking air conditioner, Billy

Radziewicz maneuvered the hospital bed into a V, and the lights went out. Elsewhere in New York City, lighting struck twice along the power grid that

kept the lights on in New York. One strike at a sub station called Buchanan and another at Indian Point. Both strikes set off a chain of events that caused a legendary black out in Manhattan.

The power was out for two days. Chaos ensued for several hours, stores looted, citizens rioted, police shot, and many injured and hospitalized.

Mayor Beame lost his election bid and my surgery was delayed two days.

Billy had to sleep in the bed he made and Kevin and Irene argued that she

never should have plugged the fucking thing in. Uncle Kevin was right.

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