TULAROSA — Just before dawn on July 16, 1945 the United States of America detonated a nuclear device as part of the Manhattan Project in the Jornada del Muerto desert and exposed many New Mexicans to radiation.
The Tularosa Basin Downwinders believe Trinity caused many health repercussions in their communities and plan to hold a peaceful demonstration on April 4 to educate the public about the devastation Trinity caused, not only to residents who were alive but also to their ancestors.
“Just when I think I’ve heard the hardest story to hear, I hear another one,” said Tularosa Basin Downwinders cofounder Tina Cordova. “This woman is in this community, her family were ranchers out there. A few days past, she said her father, her mother, uncle and aunt went out there, her aunt was pregnant at the time and the baby was born without eyes.”
Cordova as well as other members of the Downwinders spoke about stories from visiting the Trinity site and bringing home trinitite, the glassy rock formed by the heat of the Trinity bomb on the soil. Cordova told a local woman’s account with Trinitite, that the woman and her two sisters had Trinitite under their beds and would watch it glow at night.
“She has cancer, her sisters have cancer, both her parents died from cancer so 100 percent of her family has had cancer and she said I know it’s because I slept on top of trinitite my whole childhood.”
Many residents shared stories of collecting Trinitite in their childhood homes because the rock was unique.
Cordova said she believes Trinity exposed a multitude of New Mexicans to high doses of radiation, especially those in Otero, Sierra, Lincoln and Socorro counties.
“The government at the time obviously didn’t understand the long term exposure to radiation or the acute exposure to radiation, how it damaged people’s health so people were affected by it acutely, chronically and what I’m concerned about these days is that there’s a genetic component to this,” said Cordova. “People’s genetics are changed when exposed to radiation. It can take 30 to 40 years for the illnesses associated with radiation exposure to manifest.”
Cordova urged residents to call senator’s offices and explain their opinion on the Trinity site and that they support the amendments to extend the compensation to New Mexicans who have suffered from the fallout of the bomb. Cordova said the government has been compensating people for more than 25 years in other communities in Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Colorado and Arizona, but never New Mexico.
“We’re trying to bring attention to this and to the fact that people are so sick, that the incidents of cancer is sky-high and that people need and deserve help,” said Cordova. “This is a moral and ethical issue, we should not allow our country and our government to look the other way.”
Cordova said she and the Downwinders have been fighting for 10 years for recognition, an apology and compensation.
“The government needs to come back to these communities and hold town hall meetings where they hear the people’s stories and then turn that into something meaningful, like an apology or compensation for people who have been suffering all this time without any help,” said Cordova.
The Tularosa Basin Downwinders want to represent all the people of New Mexico. They want to hear from anyone who is interested or who has been affected by the Trinity site.
“We especially want to hear from people who have a good recollection of that day because the government for many years has said that after the blast this cloud of radioactivity went in a Northeastern direction over the most unpopulated parts of New Mexico and we know that’s not true,” said Cordova.
The Downwinders have recently begun receiving enough attention from the National Cancer Institute to visit and try to evaluate the doses of radiation exposure on the day of the blast.
“We were just as much victims as the people in Japan, we weren’t warned ahead of time, we weren’t afterwards, the government has never really come back to recognize any part of this,” said Cordova.
Slated to coincide with the scheduled opening of the Trinity Site, the 6th annual candlelight vigil and peaceful demonstration is planned for April 4 at the Stallion Range Station at 9 a.m., which is east of San Antonio on U.S. Highway 380 and at the Tulie Gate Road at 8 a.m., located on the west side Tularosa High School.
For more information about the demonstration, email Tina Cordova at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2015 the Alamogordo Daily News (Alamogordo, N.M.)
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