Deaths and illnesses still stalk abandoned and forgotten New Mexicans decades after the first atomic bomb blast in 1945.
America's Children of the Bomb
Ignored and dismissed, they suffer in silence
Trinity July 16, 1945
More than six decades after the United States launched what some describe as a surprise nuclear attack on the citizens of southern New Mexico, residents there feel they have been abandoned by their government and left to deal on their own with three generations of what appear to be radiation-induced illnesses and deaths that have left few families unscathed, and that continue to this day.
With your help, our feature-length documentary film will tell the story of these forgotten and apparently expendable Americans. and perhaps bring about recognition and compensation for their sacrifices.
The ranchers, citizens of small towns and the Mescalero Apache community, scattered in some cases within 10 miles of the first detonation of an atomic bomb on July 16, 1945, were at the epicenter of an epochal historical event - the unleashing of the unparalleled might of the tiny atom. But little has been told about their decades of suffering since the blast.
Before Hiroshima -- Carrizozo
We know of the suffering of the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but few are aware of the deaths and illnesses the U.S. apparently inflicted on its own citizens before the bombs were ever dropped on Japan.
“The rising fireball was "the biggest thing I had ever seen in my life. It was rolling, getting fatter and bigger and taller, one Trinity witness recently recalled. (http://reut.rs/h7SUi0) "My mother said: "The sun is coming close. The world is coming to an end." She told me to drop to my knees, but I kept looking. If it was the end of the world, I wanted to see it. I was waiting for God to come out from around the ball of fire."
A recent 10-year study by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the New Mexicans on ranches and in surrounding communities were never warned of the impending blast. No one was ever evacuated, and no precautions were ever advised, either before the blast or since, regarding the safety of their health, the water or food supplies.
The Trinity downwinders fear that their communities are still being poisoned by toxic remnants of the Trinity detonation. They have generations' worth of evidence that something is very wrong.
Visitors snap familty photos at ground zero of the Trinity atomic test on the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The site of the first detonation of a nuclear device, similar to the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, is considered a must-see tourist stop
A sign posted by the Defense Department warns Trinity visitors of possible dangers, even now, more than 60 years after the detonation of "the gadget."
"Cries for Help"
At right, Jimmy Maez died of leukemia at the age of 5 in the early 1950s. His sister, Helen Guerra, is suffering from kidney cancer now. At left, Amelia Jaurequi, shown with her husband, Juan, died of stomach cancer. Families are now asking whether Jimmy's and Amelia's deaths and Helen's illness, and possibly hundreds like them, were caused by the Trinity bomb.
This from a Trinity downwinder: “It is time for the U.S. government to recognize and acknowledge the sacrifices made by the people in these communities. I hate to believe that our government considered the people living in the Tularosa Basin as insignificant. Regardless, today 65 years later and with all that is known about radiation exposure and its significant negative health effects, it is high time that the U.S.government return to screen and treat people for cancer and compensate them for the suffering that they have endured in silence because no one has had the decency to return and to listen to their cries for help thus far.”
Rosemary Cordova's mother died of breast cancer and a brain tumor; her son Danny has a brain tumor; a sister died of breast cancer. Of the nine siblings in Cordova’s mother’s family, four have or had one form of cancer or another. "It just goes from generation to generation,’ said Cordova, 66. Cordova tells of community bake sales held to raise money to buy painkillers for the sick and dying.
Among other things, our film will address these questions and issues:
- Why have these Americans been ignored and dismissed for nearly 70 years?
- .Why were Trinity downwinders left out of federal legislation that recognized and compensated the downwinders of subsequent atomic bomb tests in Nevada and elsewhere who were much further away from the detonations?
- Why is it that in all the years since the detonation, no one has ever returned to assess possible damage to the environment or the health of the residents and their children and grandchildren?
- What is the evidence connecting the illnesses and deaths to radiation relased in the Trinity test?
- Why has it taken so long for the Trinity downwinders to connect the dots between the 1945 blast and their illnesses and deaths?
- Business leaders in southern New Mexico have reportedly warned familes of the dead and dying and those trying to help them not to talk about their ailments or the Trinity test.
- What is the significance of the findings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. including that radiation levels immediately after the blast near homes were recorded at levels 10,000 times higher than those considered safe?
- How do the experiences of the Trinity downwinders, and the Trinity blast itself, relate and compare to the more recent releases of radiation from Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima.
- How the Army has turned the Trinity site into a tourist spot with souvenir and vendor stands and allows childen to play in the sand, picking up the still radioactive trinitite glass at ground zero,
Obviously a project such as this -- done as it should be - is a costly venture. Your contributions are essential for gettting it underway. It's truly community journalism in the new virtual Internet world where we all live in one giant, global village and are ever more dependent on each other, and yet at the same time have incredibe opportunities to help each other.
The immediate goal is to produce an extensive promotional trailer with the elements that will be developed further in the film itself. Your donations will help cover the costs of kickstarting the documentary including initial reporting, taping and other production and editing costs., We also eventually plan to interview government leaders, the CDC report authors and other scientists and individuals familiar with the issues, as well as help you get to know the Trinity downwinders themselves. Any additional donations beyond the goal will be used to advance the project and speed its completion. If the goal is not met, we get nothing, as you probably know, and the Trinity downwinders' story will be delayed and even more difficult to tell.
We most gratefully appreciate whatever you can contribute. Your donations, through our 501c3 nonprofit partner Quote .. .Unquote Inc., will be tax deductible as far as the tax laws allow. Quote...Unquote is an Albuquerque-based community media provider, and supporter of journalistic efforts.
The detonation of "the gadget" turned sand into radioactive green glass, called trinitite. In the months after the blast children brought to the site would gather it up and take it home because they said it glowed in the dark. .
We have already come along way from me just saying "This is a helluva story. We should do a documentary." Natalie Guillen, my colleague in the video, and I managed to film at the Trinity site on one of the only two days of the year it is opened to the public, I finagled a pay-me-later deal with a trustiing halflife digital production house in Albuquerque and spent many an hour in the middle of the night writing this thing. I could go on but you get the idea, and I'm too tired right now.
But just imagine -- with your contributions how much good might be done for three generations of Trinity downwinders, including health and environmental assessments and possible federal legislation that would recognize them for their sacrifices and help compensate them for medical expenses and suffering -- if one can truly be adequately compensated for having an atomic bomb detonated in one's backyard.
Your contribution may well help make the Trinity downwinders part of the national conciousness.
To read more about the Trinity downwinders, check out the following links.
Photos in this project description courtesy of The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper and photographers Natalie Guillen and Luis Sanchez Saturno. Also a special thank you to the families of the Trinity downwinders and Stuart Overbey of halflife digiital.
And to my fellow journalists, my apologies for any typos, goofy sentence structure, unnecessary commas, or weird layout. I can't figure out how to spell check this thing, and there's never a copy editor around when you need one.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
seconds to go
Pledge $1 or moreYou selected
The knowledge that you have had a role in a community journalism project that will write an untold chapter of the nuclear age, and of the suffering of it's unknowing and unwilling American participants.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $25 or moreYou selected
Same as the $1 reward plus a button, cap, T-shirt or other item yet to be determined declaring "I Support the Trinity Downwinders"Estimated delivery:
Pledge $150 or moreYou selected
All of the above plus a DVD of the trailer.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $500 or moreYou selected
All of the above and a Skype or other video phone conversation with the producers to discuss the project, and a credit in the trailer.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $1,000 or moreYou selected
0 backers Limited (4 left of 4)
All of the above plus dinner with the producers at a Santa Fe dining establishment to discuss the project. (Travel and accommodations not included.)Estimated delivery:
- (45 days)