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Dick Thornburgh on: Initial Reaction to News of the Accident
Dick Thornburgh Q: Do you remember how you first heard about the incident and where your initial reaction was?

RT: Well, March 28th, 1979, I was a brand-new governor and I had a full agenda of items that had to be dealt with. Our economy was in a tail spin. Pennsylvania was a classic rust belt state and our smoke stack industries were really in a state of decline. Unemployment was creeping up. We had a tax base that was inadequate. We had a record debt. I mean these were things governors roll up their sleeves and tackle, and that's precisely what I was doing on the morning of March 28th, 1979. I'd just delivered my first budget address, which kind of set the outline for where we wanted to go, and I had brought a group of freshman Democratic legislators to the governor's home for breakfast to do some sales pitching. I was a Republican, am a Republican, and I felt some missionary work among opposition might be fruitful in getting this task advanced. We had this group assembled in the dining room, ready to feed them and to inform them, we hoped, when, at 7:50 -- and I'll never forget that time -- I received a phone call from our director of emergency management and he told me that there had been an accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear facility. For just a moment, I tried to think where that was and then recognized or recalled from a briefing I'd had that it was about ten miles down the Susquehanah River from the capitol. While I didn't know any of the particulars, I knew immediately that any kind of an accident at a facility like that was something that really was gonna be a serious consideration for us. I notified other people in our government, on my staff, and people with the responsibility for emergency management, and just kind of went back to the breakfast with this on my mind. I remember I was walking down the hall and my wife was coming the other direction. I just stopped for a minute and told her that I'd gotten this call about an accident at the nuclear facility at Three Mile Island. We kind of looked at each other in a puzzled way. And that kind of set the stage. I think we were puzzled for a long time thereafter. Obviously, that was simply, if you will, a news bulletin. I had no detail on what had happened. I went back to the breakfast and made no mention to the assembled legislators because I knew we'd have to have more facts before we began to talk about it in public.

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