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A Dilemma of Inheritance
Nora Wendl
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Twice each year—once in April and once in October—the White Sands Missile Range in Alamogordo, New Mexico, invites tourists onto the Trinity Test Site: the location of the first atomic bomb blast on Earth. On July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m. (Mountain War Time), the world and everything in it was irrevocably altered. If you arrive early in the morning to visit the site, you’ll meet members of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC), descendants of central and southern New Mexicans who unwittingly lived this test. Radioactive fallout rained down on their bodies, leached into the soil from which their food grew, contaminated their water, and killed their livestock. For generations, the TBDC has been seeking justice for what Tina Cordova, cofounder of TBDC, describes as the group’s “unknowing, unwilling, and uncompensated” exposure to nuclear testing. They can trace the impact of the testing through generations of cancers, insurmountable health-care bills, and countless early deaths. The Downwinders refuse to enter the site. Instead, they stand together strategically along U.S. Highway 380, flanking the Stallion Gate, through which every visitor to the test site must pass. They hand out literature on the impacts of nuclear testing and updated reports of the progress they have made in seeking reparative action. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) does not include the Tularosa Basin Downwinders, though they continue to lobby for inclusion.1

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