Tularosa survivors demonstrated for the first time at access to the Trinity Test Site
permitted by our government one day a year
Photo by Natalie Guillén/The New Mexican
Residents of the tranquil Tularosa Basin in the 1940s feasted on figs, apples, peaches and plums grown in their irrigated orchards. They ate eggs from their own chickens. Meat came from the cows and pigs they raised and the elk and turkey they hunted. Three dairies in the area supplied fresh milk. Rainwater was caught in cisterns for gardening.
But everything changed when the first atomic bomb was unleashed without warning at the Trinity Site, about 40 miles upwind from the town of Tularosa, on July 16, 1945.
No one knew just how much things had changed. No one had considered what effect the bomb’s significant radiation might have on the 19,000 people living in the shadow of the mushroom cloud, how that radiation might have seeped into the rainwater, the soil, the vegetation, the blood, the bone.
No one thought fresh milk might be poison.
“People down here started to get sick, started to die at alarming rates,” said Tina Cordova, an Albuquerque businesswoman born and raised in Tularosa. “And we knew it had to have been the bomb.”
We met Cordova in 2010 when her efforts to connect the 1945 atomic bomb test to the abnormally high rate of cancer she discovered among the residents downwind of the Trinity Site seemed close to bringing relief, recognition and a long-overdue apology from the U.S. government.
Three years later, relief, recognition and apology have yet to materialize…
Back in 2010, Cordova said it was hard to find anyone living within a 40-mile radius of the Trinity site who hadn’t known someone stricken with cancer. Six members of her own family had either died of or fought cancer, including herself and her father, who was 3 when the bomb turned the dark skies white and radioactive ash fell from the skies like snow.
Today, Cordova is a 16-year survivor of thyroid cancer. Her father successfully battled two forms of cancer in the past decade but lost his third bout last spring at age 71. As a child, he had loved milk and drank ample quantities, never imagining what it might contain, Cordova said…
Cordova can no longer quickly calculate how many family members have died of cancer, how many in the Tularosa Basin have suffered. There have been so many.
The National Cancer Institute is adding folks from the Tularosa Basin to their study of New Mexicans who may have been affected by the nuclear weapons programs so beloved of our government for decades. The Feds say it never occurred to them to check on radiation from that first and following atomic bomb tests. That’s probably a lie. There’s no doubt they wanted to have some idea what would follow use of these weapons on the wider population they were preparing to use the weapons on – in Japan.
All of this is part of the larger refusal to accept responsibility for contamination and poisoning of Americans associated often by virtue of where they lived – near mining, production and testing of nuclear weapons – in addition to direct employees of our rollout of weapons of mass destruction.
There is no legitimate reason for special laws having to be passed to include the healthcare of ordinary citizens affected by the radiation of our bigger and better bombs. There is no legitimate reason for Congress dragging their feet, turning their collective backs on American citizens damaged individually and generationally by the poisons and death visited upon them by our military death-industry.
We are a nation run by imperial thugs, represented by cowards and flunkies afraid to challenge official powers on behalf of the people who elected them to office. There are few exceptions. There is a greater number sharing guilt for the suffering that became part of the lives of the farmers of the Tularosa Basin after July 16, 1945.