Marie Holowka, Zion’s View

Interviewed: August 12, 1986

After the TMI accident, Marie was treated for thyroid problems. She was subsequently diagnosed for cancer and has since had several operations and is currently receiving chemotherapy. She lives with her two sisters and brother. The Holowka’s have had many animal problems on their farm since the time TMI began operation in 1974. Here Marie talks about the morning of the accident. [The distance from the milk house to the house is a little over 100 feet.]

I went to the barn around four, four-thirty [in the morning]. We were milking cows. And the barn started to shake. And I heard a rumble like underground. Well, I wouldn’t say an earthquake. But it was going like “brrup, brrup, brrup”. And then it shook and shook and we didn’t hear the big rumbles. But every now and then you could hear a rumbling in the ground. And Paul, my brother, was with me and he says, “That’s an earthquake.” I said, “Paul, it don’t sound like earthquake. Earthquake, it just rattles. But you don’t hear the noise, the brrup, brrup.” It just [was] like there was boiling water coming underground. And I said, “l think something happened at Three Mile Island.” Then we kept on milking.

And Paul left me about six o’clock. He wanted to listen to the radio to hear what was going on, if it was an earthquake or what. And I finished milking cows a little bit after seven. And I came in the milk house and I cleaned it up to get ready for the milk truck. And so, about ten after seven I started for the house, ‘cause I’ve been working since early morning. And I looked outside. It was so blue! It was so blue! I couldn’t see ten feet ahead of myself! And I got scared.

So I walked out and I’m going to the house. There’s a stone walk there. And I fell down, see. But I was scared and I thought, “Well, maybe I stumbled.” And I went about twenty feet away from the milk house. That poison gas must have hit me. I tumbled. And then I finally got myself up and I’m goin’ in. And I went about forty feet more, and I fell down again. And I said to myself, “Well, this must be poison gas, because I know I didn’t stumble. I just collapsed.” And I couldn’t get up. I’d try to get up and I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t get no strength to get up. I finally got myself up, and I went towards where those flowers are. Then I fell down [again]. And I said, “Oh, my. Now I really know something happened at Three Mile Island! It must be poison gas.” I just fell down. I had no strength to get up. I said, “Must I really die at Three Mile Island?”

And I stayed there and I struggled. Nobody came out of the house to see me or nothing. So, I finally got up after struggling there maybe five minutes or so. I walked to the house. I opened the door. I stumbled into the house. I said to them, “Did you hear anything about Three Mile Island?” They said, “No, we didn’t.” I said, “You know what happened to me. I fell down three times before I could come to the house.” I was just something like a drunk.

We stayed in the house. It was blue. You couldn’t see anything or nothing. And we were scared. Everything was blue. Everywhere was blue. Couldn’t see the buildings or anything. It was just heavy blue all that time. We closed up our doors. We stuffed rags underneath the door so this wouldn’t come in. But I think it was all the way in.

And we stayed there. It was a warm day. It was a hot day. It was so hot. We shut all the windows and all the doors and we stayed inside. And about nine [a.m.] we listened to the local radios. But they wouldn’t say anything. They were only playing Dolly Parton’s music.

[It is quite certain that Marie’s above account took place on March 28th. However, her account of media coverage on evacuation follows right after, leading to the possibility that this passage may have occurred on Thursday.]

Further describing her walk from the milk house to the house:

You just got to feel funny. You’d just get an awful feeling in your body. Just like a pinching feeling going through you. Like electricity would be going through you. Did you every get pinched with electric fence? That kind of little shocks. All the way through all your body. You could feel it going through your system. And in my nose, and in my mouth. And then you could taste like a copper taste in your mouth. I could taste that. And then I just got to feel so bad. Nothing was biting me, but you just had that feeling. I just started to get weak. I just got real weak. I thought I was scared. I guess I just folded up and fell over. I couldn’t get up. I didn’t have no strength to get myself up. Or my brain or something wasn’t working. I couldn’t get my coordination to get up. I don’t really remember if I was conscious or not. I guess I wasn’t conscious when I went down, ‘cause I don’t remember going down, see. And I fell on the stones. I was lucky that I didn’t get broken bones.

Nothing like that ever happened to me before or ever since. Nothing.

[Marie says the blueness, as well as the taste, lasted several days.]