ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It had been a beautifully organic way to live.
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.