Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident - 28 March, 1979

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"It was the first step in a nuclear nightmare; as far as we know at this hour, no worse than that. But a government official said that a breakdown in an atomic power plant in Pennsylvania today is probably the worst nuclear reactor accident to date."

-Walter Cronkite,

CBS Evening News, 28 March, 1979

Ooops! It's the Pepsi Syndrome...

Personal Perspective

I was in the fourth grade in March 1979 and my mother picked me up from school in the morning to take me to a dentist appointment. On the drive back to school, we were listening to the AM radio and heard the news reports that there was a problem at Three Mile Island.

My mother started to cry and told me to look after my little brother, who was in kindergarten at the time, if we would be taken away to a fallout shelter someplace. Of course, being 10 years old, I had no idea what she was talking about.

When I got back to school, nobody was doing any work. Our teachers had closed the windows and turned off the lights. While they talked among themselves in the halls, the students played board games completely unaware of what was taking place at TMI.

We dismissed classes early and were instructed to keep the windows closed on the school bus during the drive home.

Schools were closed for a few days and we left our house and stayed with some relatives to the west of Three Mile Island until officials said it was safe to return to our homes.

I can vividly recall my mother being angry and upset with the news accounts which attempted to reassure the public.

It was my turn to be upset and angry years later when a robotic probe found that the core had partially melted and that plant officials had no idea how close we had come to a total disaster. I lost a bit of my faith in authority after that disclosure.


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