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It was a beautiful spring day in centra! Pennsylvania. As I finished a lecture on Genesis on the creation of God’s good earth, the Scripture seemed to have a special relevance to the day.

As the class members gathered together their books to leave, a student quietly stepped to the windows and closed them. Another explained to the class that the governor of Pennsylvania had requested that we all stay inside until further notice—and stay calm.

From our campus—Pennsylvania State University’s Capitol Campus—we can see the high cooling towers of Three Mile Island and have come to accept them as part of the landscape. It was hard to believe these massive pots with their harmless-looking flumes had been transformed into monsters spewing forth radioactive gases.

We gathered quietly in the auditorium and listened to our engineering professors explain how the plant works and then speculate on what might have gone wrong. It was reassuring to listen to the gentle ticking of Geiger counters registering normal levels of radioactivity. This reassurance was abruptly undermined by the governor’s orders to evacuate our campus.

Driving home, I still found it inconceivable that the air was poisoned. The balmy spring day belied the words of ill omen on the radio. Stopping as usual at the grocery store and the gas station, I noted that immediate concerns like feeding the family and the car seemed more real and pressing.

The highways were already crowded with families fleeing to the mountains or the shore; many of them were in a holiday mood because of the unexpected work stoppage. Less affluent families who lived close to Three Mile Island bundled their households off to shelters at the Hershey Sports Arena. As hysteria began, frantic ...

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