Down To Zero

March 17, 1979.     Fall River, Massachusetts.      After 5 months of working for Clamshell Alliance the Blockade was over. Rachel told me she wanted to go back to California. Joe Murray and his girlfriend were driving an old schoolbus to L.A. They told Rachel they would take her to San Francisco. My position at Clamshell Alliance was being eliminated, our Fall River office closing and I had no clue what to do next. The last few days with Rachel had been less blissful…we hadn’t really fought about anything but I knew she was tired of Fall River. Rachel had no anxiety about not having a job or a place to stay, I was dealing with the fact that for half a year my life was organizing against the Nuclear plant and now it looked pretty hopeless.  Joe and his girlfriend picked Rachel up on the 17th. I hugged her goodbye and promised I’d see her soon even though I didn’t have a clue when. The next day I took a bus to Boston to attend a meeting of the Clamshell Alliance Media Committee. Carol Wright mentioned a film that had been released two days before called “The China Syndrome “. She suggested we leaflet local theatres that were showing the movie. My heart wasn’t in it. I said I’d check it out. The next day I returned to Fall River to pack my stuff. John and Karen Quintal  asked me to go see the film with them. After some hesitation I agreed.  It wasn’t bad. I remember Karen saying “If everyone in the country could  just see this movie, the Nuclear industry would be dead.” I said, “I doubt it. Nothing will change until folks come face to face with the real thing. It’s a good movie but  It’s like Jaws- not real until somebody gets bit”. A few days later something happened in a Pennsylvania town that brought America “face to face with the real thing” The accident at Three Mile Island would change the way Americans viewed nuclear energy, and while the Blockade had failed we rallied determined to bring down the monster.


What do you think?

19 Points

Written by PaulPallazola


    • Thank you LaJenna. It was a case if life imitates art. If you didn’t see the film but lived through Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Tokyo Power Fukushima it’s the same story…

  1. I saw the movie, like I saw many movies about catastrophes caused by humans. But nothing’s changed. There were several very serious accidents in nuclear plants, all over the world and nothing’s changed. People died, people got sick and still, nothing is changing….. 🙁

    • I think more people are aware of thw deadly nature of the nuclear industry and the myth of the “peaceful atom”. That’s a start. Change is slow but the courage of people standing up in different corners of the world is cause for hope. I’m an old man tired from a lot of marching, but I haven’t given up and don’t intend to.

  2. Any move towards progress means we are giving up something — that something is always either the nature or the welfare of the people. And you are right, most will not react until they taste the effects of the real thing. Humans just don’t give a damn until the trouble is right in their doorstep.

    • It was many years ago. When it first came out no one was sure if it would be a success despite having Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda acting in it. The accident at Three Mile Island happened less than two weeks after its release and resulted in many people wanting to know more about what could happen, this resulted in an upsurge of people going to see it.