SOCORRO COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – Seven decades ago, a nuclear blast shook the barren desert of southeast New Mexico.
It was the first of its kind and played a pivotal role in ending World War II. On Saturday, some went to admire the spot where the explosion took place while others made the trip to make a plea for help.
“The effects could well be called unprecedented, magnificent, beautiful, stupendous and terrifying. No man-made phenomenon of such tremendous power had ever occurred before.”
Those are the words of Brigadier General Thomas Farrell from 1945 as he described Trinity.
70 years ago, scientists from Los Alamos developed the atomic bomb. It was tested further south, on the White Sands Missile Range in Socorro County, on a spot now famous as the Trinity Site.
“This is where history was made,” Lauren Harrelson said, a visitor to the site from Socorro.
Crowds of people showed up Saturday to get a rare glimpse of that history.
“My impression of this place has been really good,” Arun Kumar said.
“The testing that was done here affected life everywhere on earth because this is the first place the atomic bomb was tested,” Harrelson said.
A monument now stands at ground zero near the remains of a tower vaporized in the blast.
Visitors only get two chances a year to stop by.
Aside from the monument, the history and the thousands of visitors flocking to see it, there’s another story. It has to do with “the downwinders,” or the people living in the Tularosa basin.
“I was here when that bomb was detonated,” Wesley E. Burris said, who now lives in Socorro.
He was just five years old and lived only 25 miles from the explosion.
“I can remember being woken up that morning,” Burris said. “The light was so bright it’d hurt your eyes.”
His baby brother was right in the path.
“Well, he wound up with bone cancer before he was 15 years old and today he has radiation cancer all over his body,” Burris said.
Doris Budris shares a similar story. She, too, has cancer.
“We were downwind of this bomb,” she said. “No one was warned ahead of time that this was coming. The fallout from this bomb lasted for days on end.”
At the Trinity Site entrance, she and others made it clear they are living with that fallout and now they want the government to pay up.
“I don’t know that there is any amount of money to compensate what I’ve been through,” Budris said.
The morning of the explosion, Army officials told New Mexicans a munitions storage area accidently blew up near Alamogordo.
The next chance to visit the Trinity Site will be October 3rd.