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Carrizozo seeks awareness on atomic bomb harm

Note: This article was originally published in the Las Cruces Sun News on April 1, 2018, at

Associated Press

CARRIZOZO - A small, New Mexico railroad town that received a large part of the residue from the world's first atomic bomb test is joining efforts to share stories about the test's health effects as advocates work to gather more information how the 1945 test affected generations of Hispanic and Native American residents.

Advocates seeking recognition for the harms caused by the World War II-era test are trying to gather stories from residents of the tiny town of Carrizozo, New Mexico, the Alamogordo Daily News reported Tuesday.

It is the latest community to join efforts to by the Tularosa Basin Downwinders, a group that advocate for residents in southern New Mexico whose families lived near the Trinity Test site, to gather oral histories and data about the health effects from the atomic bomb experiment.

The bomb was tested in a stretch of desert near Carrizozo and other towns with Hispanic and Native American populations.

More: Trinity Site: What you need to know before visiting

Members of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders say many people who lived near the testing site were not told it was an atomic weapon test until the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and World War II ended.

Residents in the towns of Tularosa, Oscuro, Ruidoso and of the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation have been gathering similar stories and data for years.

They say they want acknowledgment and compensation from the U.S. government after many families were diagnosed with rare forms of cancer.

Resident Bernice Gutierrez, who was born in Carrizozo just days before the atomic bomb was tested 33 miles away, has had several deaths in her family from cancer.

Tularosa Basin Downwinders co-founder Tina Cordova said the group is interested in expanding its work into the Carrizozo community because it was so close to the test site.

"Along the way I've met a lot of people who've come forward out of that community and have told stories that are just remarkable about what their experiences were at the time of the test and since the test," Cordova said.

Carrizozo, a small railroad town north of where the atomic test was detonated, was known for providing reed grass used as feed for ranch cattle. Cordova said no one ever studied if reed grass was contaminated and if it affected cattle that area residents later consumed.

The move into Carrizozo comes as the Tularosa Basin Downwinders raise money for about 10 residents to travel to Washington, D.C., this summer and testify about the effects of the Trinity Test on generations of residents who lived near the site.

Cordova said also wanted to gather more stories from residents of the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation.

Scientists working in the then-secret city of Los Alamos developed the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project. The secret program provided enriched uranium for the atomic bomb. It also involved facilities in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Hanford, Washington.

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