PAM & San Onofre, a personal experience

A little over a year ago I was on a business trip,  a conference at the Sheratan hotel in Carlsbad.  It just so happens to be less than a block walk to the Legoland Park California.  I wasn’t there with my family, this was business, and actually had nothing to do with Pregnancy Awareness Month.  During the drive down we passed San Onofre, which is typical, it is the only way to get from WLA to Carlsbad using the freeway system.

During the 2nd night of the conference at dinner I learned thru my collegues who were using Facebook that there was a leak at San Onofre and it wasn’t clear how much had leaked, if it still was leaking, and what the plan was to contain or close the plant.  There we were, less than 10 miles from the plant, in a hotel at dinner…I felt like a sitting duck.  One of my collegues, who is a Primary Care MD, sat across from me and half smiled as he told me we had just shortend our life span by 10 years.  I tried to laugh, but could feel the heat of the blood rising to my face and my pulse and breath quicken.  Grabbing for the table salt I poured myself a spoonful and asked anyone at the table if they wanted to join me since I guessed it had iodine in it.  Thoughts of my daughter and my life flashed thru me as panic really started to set in.  “There is nothing I can do,” I realized, “it is over, I am here, there is no turning back time.”  Regrets of the post dinner walk we took the night before outside to look at the ocean just didn’t seem worth it now.  The saying that “it can change in an instant” kept looking over and over in my mind.

The next afternoon as we drove by San Onofre back home, all of us in the car stopped talking during that minute.  The silence in the car was deafening.  I was shocked at how the roads were still open.  How at the freeway entrance only 7 miles away I saw a family with a toddler shopping at a strawberry farm stand.  And I thought of Legoland, approximately 10 miles away from San Onofre.  Surely the residents are aware of the calculated risk they have taken to live there.  But the familes that go to Legoland….all of the children that have been playing and continue to play there…what about them?  I never thought about it as I planned my trip to the conference, I never thought for 1 second about any risk that I might be taking.

The news about San Onofre continues to make all who read it uncomfortable.  Since that experience my compassion for Japan has certainly increased.  The ongoing seriousness of the  disaster over there with the Fukushima plant “closed” but not contained is another issue that most of us tend to just not think about.

Why am I writing this on Pregnancy Awareness Month during the month of May?  Because I am a mother, a social worker, and  a concerned citizen.  Part of our work here at PAM is to advocate for women to educate themselves to make the best choices possible about birthing, products & gear, eating organically, household chemicals, parenting styles, etc.  In Southern California there is a debate about San Onofre, and it will impact the residents near there of course, but also because of Legoland, it impacts many many visitors as well, many of them pregnant and with small children.  here is a link to a recent LA Times article.  The author suggests that the debate should be based on science…ok, I agree to a point, but don’t we the people have the right to say we don’t want this anymore?  That the risks aren’t something we feel comfortable with?  Is our voice important?

Alisa Donner, MSW, LCSW, Co-Founder of Pregnancy Awareness Month

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