Newspaper: The Evening Sentinel

Date: April 5, 1979

Title: Life Will Never Be the Same

Author: Scott MacLeod, United Press International


HARRISBURG, Pa.-Central Pennsylvanians are returning home after a week-long nuclear crisis that scared tens of thousands away to safer territory. But some say life will never be the same near Three Mile Island.

"People are still afraid, as far as the nuclear power plant is concerned," said John Brabits, assistant director of the civil defense in Dauphin County, the center of the endangered area.
"I won't feel safe until the people at three Mile Island say the reactor is in a cold shutdown state. I'm still concerned about the health and safety of the people in my county."

ABOUT 78,900 of the estimated 200,000 residents who fled Dauphin and nearby counties after the nuclear accident eight days ago apparently felt the area was safe enough and have returned to their homes, civil defense authorities said.

People fled to Appalachian Mountain towns in north and western Pennsylvania, some as far west as Pittsburgh and as far east as Connecticut.

The optimistic return was coupled Tuesday night by Gov. Dick Thornburgh's announcement that the chances of a catastrophe have greatly diminished because a potentially explosive hydrogen bubble in the nuclear reactor was eliminated.

Thornburgh has not ordered a mandatory evacuation, but six counties have kept their evacuation plans on alert status.

AN EERIE air raid siren blared through downtown Harrisburg at 9:50 a.m. Wednesday just as thousands poured back in, and callers jammed the lines at Dauphin County civil defense headquarters.

"Don't worry, nobody hit the panic button," Brabits reassured them. He said the siren was tripped by mistakes.

Meanwhile, residents resumed their daily lives. Women went grocery shopping and children attended re-opened schools.

Robert Reid, mayor of Middletown, where the tall white cooling towers of the Three Mile Island have become an uneasy reminder of the near-disaster, was asked about life in Middletown getting back to normal.

"I don't think it'll ever be the same," he said.