The Other Victims Of U.S. Nuclear Warmaking Policy: The Forgotten Victims Of Nuke Testing In New Mexico Still Fighting For Recognition

Government Still In Denial Over Nuclear Testing Claims: New Mexico ‘Downwinders’ Still Fighting For Compensation And Recognition

A recent piece in Vice told the stories of the New Mexico “Downwinders,” people who claim to have been affected by fallout from early nuclear testing are as tragic in their innocence when we consider all we know about nuclear testing today.

One woman, Barbara Kent, remembers being jolted awake by the blast, tossed from her bunk at a summer camp in nearby Ruidoso, New Mexico.


“It was the biggest jolt you could imagine,” said Kent in a VICE interview, recalling the moment 71 years ago when the first atomic bomb was detonated in the nearby white sands desert. “We were all sitting there on the floor wondering what [was] happening. [We] thought the water heater had exploded so we rushed outside. It was just after 5:30 and it should have been dark–but it was like the sun had been turned on.”

That was the first successful test of a nuclear weapon. Later that day the campers noticed a fine white powder falling outside their cabin windows, “snowing in July,” as Kent put it.

“We were catching it on our tongues like snowflakes,” she recalled. “Scooping the ash and putting it all over our faces.”

Kent, now 84, has suffered many recurrences of cancer, and is the last living member of the group of campers–10 of whom died before they reached 40 years of age.

“This is no coincidence,” she added.

Bu try telling that to the government. The Centers for Disease Control in conjunction with the Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment looked at radiation releases in the U.S. dating back to the Trinity test that Kent claims sickened her and her bunkmates, but failed to do the right thing and connect the dots.

“Too much remains undetermined about the exposures from the Trinity test to put the event in perspective as a source of public radiation expose or to defensibly address the extent to which people were harmed,” they concluded.\

What’s indefensible is that 71 years later, after we know so much more about the dangers of nuclear radiation, the government that subjected these people to what one person called “…the world’s largest lab test,” would still deny them just compensation, healthcare and recognition for their suffering.

Check out the story in Vice for more.

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