Three Mile Island (For Jules) My Personal Recollection
I am a native of Lancaster Pennsylvania. Growing up there I went to J.P McCaskey high school(picture shown). It was the largest area high school, I was co-captain of their gymnastics team, the Fulton Opera House was presenting Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," and experienced The Three Mile Island accident first hand.
It was my freshman, sophomore year in high school (McCaskey only has grades 10-12, junior high are grades 7-9). It was one or two o'clock when a special announcement came over the loud speakers. Sitting in my piano class, I played the organ, and always wanted to play the piano but my parents forced me to play the organ, the dreadful announcement came. Three Mile Island had an accident. One of two nuclear powerplants in the area. The other one was Peachbottom. We will keep you posted on all updates. Should they have released us that day from school? I think they should have for being only about 45 minute drive from Middletown Pa. and the local news coverage down playing the accident. Will write more about that later.
As far as we the students knew at the time, we weren't in any real danger. Later finding out how in grave danger of losing our lives we were. So finally school lets out, all team sports practices are cancelled we all rush home to see the news special reports. I lived about five or six blocks from school so I walked to school every morning, and home every night. This posting is just a little hard to write. Emotions are now coming up that have been suppressed, or not felt for years.
So walking into my home, my mother in front of the television watching the latest updates. My father is still at work in the watch dial factory he where he was employed. He usually came home between five and six at night. Me being a teenager at the time, I was scared, and frighten of what may happen to us. I didn't understand nuclear energy, and the internet was just a shining spark in someone's brain.
I have never discussed the conversations my mother and father had during the crisis, with my mother. Dad passed away a few years ago. I remember the first night sitting at the dining room table, with my mother, brother, and my father stating, "I don't know what to do, lets just wait and see what happens, and keep checking the updated news reports."
Day two I go to school. About 20 percent of the schools student body is absent. The teachers conduct classes like nothing happened. You could feel the tension in the faculty and in student body. The huge cafeteria, where my friends and I usually played UNO during our lunch time break, was unusually silent and the conversations I did hear were about Three Mile Island.
The middle of the accident. About half the school's student body are absent now. Their parents keeping them close should something more drastic happens at the power plant. Families are now leaving for other states to stay with relatives and friends fearing they will be nuked. The teachers are really no longer teaching their classes. Team sports competitions have been cancelled, practices were now optional. Evidently absenteeism was bountiful in all the school districts in the area.
I remember quite vividly pleading with my father to leave the area. My father reassured me that the government would handle things, him trusting the local media coverage at the time, and not being able to afford to leave the area for weeks at time. He had our family to support. I now understand what conflict he must have been going threw. That night my sister calls us. She was living in Fullerton, California at the time going to college. She asks my mother how the media is covering the accident. My mother states" We are only receiving small reports here." My sister informs us that it is blasted all over the media everywhere else.
This is when I found out Three Mile Island has always had problems. This is when I found out one of my uncles on my mother's side of the family worked on the plumbing. My mother told me that before my uncles company received the contract. The previous company hooked up the wrong water pipes to the toilets. Yes indeed, the hooked up the hot water instead of the cold water so every time they flushed the toilets would explode. Thinking back now it was a sign of things to come.
Damn I should be doing more packing instead of writing this posting.
Things cool down. Literally. A few weeks we are out of danger. The nuclear plant has been shut down. The government is now investigating the accident, we are finally informed how close we were from losing our lives. Students trickle back to school daily. Team sports competitions resume. My feelings about the government, and their handling of the natives of Pennsylvania still hasn't changed over all these years. I have to say I am still bitter at them. Why didn't they do a forced evacuation like they did for Katrina? Where was the Red Cross and other agencies that handled those type of emergencies?
A few years later. I have now graduated high school in the middle of my class. I am dating my first real boyfriend. Another story to be told. We dated for about nine months. I am living in Harrisburg during our relationship. His family were avid boatist and loved to water ski. So one day they want to teach me how to water ski. Where do we go? On the Susquehanna river right in front of Three Mile Island. Yes, you read that right! I learned to water ski in front of TMI years after the accident.