Sunday, April 4, 2010


Imagine covering the urban chaos of a major blackout by candlelight.

On Tuesday, November 9th, 1965, in the middle of the evening rush hour, the lights went out up and down the eastern seaboard from Northern New Jersey to Massachusetts.
It was 5:30pm EST when a landmark power outage threw 25 million people into the darkness.

Before the power came back on, and the sun rose again,there was urban looting, commercial airliners were diverted as landing strip lights went dark and there was even a prison break.

The National Guard was called out and off-duty police officers were called in. First responders tended to the daunting jobs of crowd control and emergency rescue.

In tense times, that were just 24 months removed from the killing of President John F.Kennedy, the federal government and the news media tried to reassure terrified citizens that this was not the first volley in a Russian or Chinese nuclear attack on America.

The blackout shut down thousands of businesses for hours and took America's three major television and radio networks off the air for a short time, as well.

TV Networks that normally transmitted national programming to affiliated stations across America from their Manhattan headquarters quickly diverted their primary feeds to stations in nearby markets that still had power. Philadelphia's KYW-TV (then an NBC affiliate) and NBC's Washington Owned & Operated station, WRC-TV, delivered the Peacock's Tuesday Night,Prime Time line-up.

Shortly after the lights went out, and NYC broadcast operations were paralyzed ,a motorcycle courier was dispatched from the NBC Studios at 30 Rockerfeller Plaza to bring a stand-by episode of THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON, to KYW-TV's gleaming, marble and steel building at 1619 Walnut Street in Philadelphia.The power was on and the lights were still burning brightly in the shadow of the Liberty Bell.

On that fateful night, the nocturnal adventures of Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon were delivered to loyal, late night viewers across the country, courtesy of the Westinghouse-Owned TV station in Philly. KYW-TV covered the arrival of that media messenger as a part of the blackout story for EYWITNESS NEWS AT 11PM.

In New York, NBC management prepared an NBC NEWS SPECIAL REPORT anchored by the affable Robert Abernathy in NBC's Washington News Bureau with late, videotaped reports from NBC News correspondents Frank McGee and Jim Hartz at 30 Rock. Their inserts were delivered from the confines of a spartan, FLASH STUDIO with illumination provided by a single, flickering candle. NBC News producers admitted some years later that the candle was an overtly dramatic touch to emphasize that power was being provided for the makeshift studio by a mobile generator.

It was an incredible effort that truly captured the angst and ambiance of the night that the lights went out on the east coast. Here, thanks to the REALAGENTOFSHIELD YOU TUBE site is a clip of that NBC News coverage Enjoy!!!!!

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