After I graduated from Penn State at the beginning of March 1979 I spent the rest of the month going on job interviews in New York City. I stayed with my older brother, Darrell, who lived in Bayonne, NJ, conveniently located across from Manhattan. In the months preceding my graduation I had set up meetings at ad agencies such as J. Walter Thompson, Dancer Fitzgerald Sample and Grey Advertising, and once in New York I arranged appointments with a number of personnel agencies. If nothing turned up on the job front I planned to return home to Pittsburgh where I'd resume my job search. (However, the personnel director - it wasn't called Human Resources back then - at the Kenyon & Eckhardt ad agency insisted that if I really wanted to work in advertising it had to be in New York, particularly after he interviewed for a job at Pittsburgh's major agency, Ketchum & MacLeod, and was told that if he wanted to be hired as its personnel director he'd first need to marry the woman he was living with.)
March 28 was a chilly Wednesday and after having meetings at three personnel agencies I walked across town to the Port Authority terminal to catch my bus back to Bayonne. Walking along 42nd St. near the Public Library a NY Post headline caught my eye. It screamed (as only a Post headline could) that an accident had occurred at a nuclear reactor in south central Pennsylvania and there was the possibility of a radiation leak.
Residents of the New York metropolitan area were reassured that if a leak occurred we wouldn't be in danger, at least for the next few days, since the wind would be coming out of the north. Still, the accident was of great concern since 30 million persons lived within a 200-mile radius of the reactor. There was also skepticism about how forthright officials were being with the public as they tried to reassure residents in the vicinity of the reactor. (My Aunt Lee and Uncle George lived in York, not far from where the reactor was located.)
A few days later Darrell and I saw the new movie China Syndrome (starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas) which, by eerie coincidence, had a plot about a meltdown cover up. Looking back, I don't recall ever feeling panicked over the incident at Three Mile Island despite the fact that it was the most serious accident at a commercial nuclear power plant in U.S. history. Perhaps it was the cockeyed optimism that came with being a recent college graduate.
A week later my future looked bright as I was hired by ad agency Scali, McCabe, Sloves to work in its media department. And thousands of residents from south central Pennsylvania began returning to their homes. (Later in the year, however, my future seemed somewhat uncertain when talk of war, and a possible military draft, arose after Americans at the U.S. embassy in Tehran in Iran were taken hostage.)