ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – “Historical” and a “monumental” moment. That’s what advocates for families impacted by the test of the atomic bomb in New Mexico are saying after President Biden publicly acknowledged the harm to surrounding communities and said he’s on board to help.
A fourth-generation cancer survivor and co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, Tina Cordova has spent the last 18 years fighting for families just like hers. Families who were impacted by the above-ground nuclear testing in New Mexico in the 1940s. TBDC also advocates for workers who were mining for uranium after 1971.
Invited by Senator Ben Ray Lujan, Cordova was in the audience when the senator used the platform of the president’s visit to Belen to bring attention to the cause. “Mr. President, we’re fighting with everything that we have with senators and members of the house from across the country, in hopes that we can keep this in the National Defense Authorization Act and make sure that these families are seen and get the help that they deserve,” said Senator Lujan while at the podium.
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Cordova was also there when the president responded. “I’m prepared to help in terms of making sure that those folks are taken care of by the way,” said President Biden at the podium.
“I did yell out. I couldn’t really contain the emotion I was feeling at the moment,” said Cordova. “To finally have the President of the United States acknowledge the harm and the damage that was done and to express his support for our efforts was monumental. It’s historical. Nothing like this has ever happened before.”
And that’s not all. Cordova introduced herself to President Biden after his speech. She said the president hugged her and mentioned his son who died of cancer. “I knew immediately that he connected with us, that he understood what this meant. It was really an emotional moment actually,” said Cordova. “I told him the clock is ticking and people are dying. And he said, I’m on board with this. I’m on board with this.”
For Cordova, justice means an apology for the New Mexico downwinders, partial restitution, and inclusion in legislation for healthcare coverage. And now, it all could be within reach. “We’re filled with hope. We’re closer than we’ve ever been before,” said Cordova.
Since New Mexico’s congressional delegation is all on board, Cordova is encouraging people to reach out to congressional leaders outside of the state to bring change through legislation in Washington.