Clair and Ruth Hoover, Bainbridge

Dairy farmers
Interviewed: February 21, 1983

The Hoovers had many problems with their cows and their own health after the accident. This excerpt is limited to the powdery substance they saw on Friday, March 30th, and the taste they had in their mouths when they returned to feed their farm animals on Saturday, March 31st.
Clair was also a part-time truck driver, and Ruth worked in a restaurant in Bainbridge part-time.

CLAIR: Saturday is when we had a taste in our mouth that wasn’t pleasant. This was probably about ten o’clock. We realized it when we asked for a glass of milk. My wife just about threw up on it. I drank some of it but not much because it didn’t taste good at all. The top of our tongue was kind of burning. I’m not sure if there was anything wrong with the milk. It was probably mainly in our mouth. It was kind of a chalky or powdery, dry taste. It just seemed like you couldn’t taste the food that you were eating. It kind of numbed your senses in the mouth.

RUTH: That morning, one of the men that lived with us at the time brought me [that] glass of milk out from the house. I started to drink it. And I just kind of gave it back. l said, “That milk’s spoiled.” And then I looked at the milk. There was nothing wrong with the milk. But I had a bitterness in my mouth. You know, when you drive past an iron foundry or something, it smells of metal like a grit. That’s the taste we had in our mouth. It was like a metallic taste. You couldn’t get rid of it. You could brush your teeth or whatever, but you still had it. It was on your lips, I guess. So I knew that something was in the air. [Ruth says she thinks this because she tasted it only when she licked her lips drinking the milk.]

We went out to eat, down to a restaurant in Bainbridge and there was just something about the air. It was bitter on your lips. You could taste it. I can’t really tell you exactly what it tasted like, but it was definitely something bitter in the air that you were getting. We talked to some people in Goldsboro that said they had like this grit. I think they also had more of the fallout than we did on this side.

CLAIR: We hadn’t noticed too much on Wednesday and Thursday. But we weren’t out more than we had to. [But] Friday when my wife came back from work, I had a red pick-up truck and she looked out and said, “It’s snowing out there.” She could see the white flakes against my red pick-up. That would have been Friday right before noon time.

RUTH: The police had driven up and told us to close the restaurant down and get out. Our owner really got upset. He told us all to get out of the restaurant. So we did. When I came out, I’d seen it.

CLAIR: It looked like there had been a bonfire somewhere and there were flakes of burnt paper or something that would have flown up and that were coming back down. They were small, but they were noticeable. They were easily visible. Different people tried to tell us that we didn’t [laughter], but we saw it then. Up against my red pick-up you could easily see it. It wasn’t like you’d look out and see the things coming down real big or anything.

RUTH: It looked like when you burnt paper, but it was really fine. It was real small and white. It looked like real fine snow coming down. It was white or grayish. Kind of a grayish-white. All I know is that I saw it. I looked out and it was just like it was snow, but I knew it wasn’t snow. I don’t think when it was down that you could really see it laying that much. It wasn’t like a blinding snow or anything like that. My daughter had stayed home from school that day and I just said to her, “Look at that Ruthie. It looks like fine snow coming down.” So I’d seen it in the couple of minutes that it took [us to get home from the restaurant].

When I came back, I was panicked. I wanted to get out of there get my [other] kids. I ran in the house, grabbed the pillows and sleeping bags, and I was out of there in a matter of minutes. I knew enough of what was going on. I wanted the kids out of the area.

[It wasn’t until] a day or two later, when I realized what I had seen. But then the people from Three Mile Island came down [later] and said, “No, you didn’t see anything. That’s all imaginary.” But we talked to people across the river. And we started going to meetings. And there’s quite a few over on the other side who had also seen the white stuff coming down. There might have been a couple of people on this side of the river [also]. And NRC says, “Anybody who’s seen it, they’re whackoes. They all imagined it.” I said, “Hey, as long as I live, you’re never going to tell me I didn’t see it coming down!” I told my daughter later, “You know, that really scares me that we didn’t realize at the time what it was.” It just looked like fine powder, like a snow coming down. But from what I understand, it must have been very spotty. We didn’t even know that at the time, because when I came from Bainbridge on up, it was coming down. You could see it in the air.

That night we had little red spots on our arms where we didn’t have sleeves on. We went to a motel about 35 miles away, near my mom’s. We saw on TV that night where they said, “Take a shower if you think you had any exposure to anything. To fallout.” I was so scared and I was just glad to be out of there. We never did take a shower until the next morning. I was so emotionally exhausted, all we did that night was just lay there and watch for the news on TV. We talked about it later, that we had little red spots on the arms. We talked to our doctor. He said that it definitely should have been washed immediately. We should have scrubbed it. But, time will tell if anything happens to us.

There was quite a few over in Goldsboro [who said they saw the powdery substance]. There might have been a couple of people on this side of the river [also].

But it was really fine. It wasn’t as large as paper trash or anything like that. It was real fine.