Gene Mederos and his New Mexico Film Resource at Santa Fe Community College are really going to help make our documentary, "Forgotten: Trinity's Downwinders," finally happen. The decades of suffering and loss among the residents of southern New Mexico after the first detonation of an atomic bomb are beyond the pale -- young girls swimming in a fallout-laden river, a child born without eyes,radiation burns on the day of the blast, families wiped out by radiation-related cancers and other illnesses. The stories never end, each worse than the last.
Lois Lipman, an Emmy-award winning documentary filmmaker and former field producer for CBS News' "60 Minutes" and the BBC in London has joined our film team. Lois' extensive experience in choosing strong, dynamic characters, conducting journalistic research and creating compelling narratives already has proven valuable to our project.
Thanks to all who donated dozens of items - from clothes to sporting gear - to our two recent flea market fundraisers in Eldorado. Proceeds have helped to pay down editing expenses incurred in the production of our sizzle reel.
Fred Tyler, co-founder of the the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, passed away Feb. 14, 2014, of a lung ailment that came on suddenly. Fred is featured prominently in our sizzle reel, speaking eloquently to the sense of abandonment many residents feel. We are still shaken by the shock of his unexpected death.
Co-producer Natalie Guillen, sound engineer Eric Shultz and I traveled to the Tularosa and Carrizozo areas recently to film rancher Jess Gilland who witnessed the Trinity blast on the early morning of July 16, 1945. He recalled for our cameras how the sides of the cattle facing the Trinity site turned yellow, as did the nearby pinion nuts. Many of the cattle also were blinded by the atomic flash.
Natalie and I traveled to Tularosa July 14, 2013 to film a vigil held by the Trinity downwinders on behalf of those who apparently have died and been made ill by the radiation and other toxins released by the first detonation of an atomic bomb on July 16, 1945.
It was a very emotionally moving, and I must say disturbing, event. Representatives of several members of Congress read statements of support, but in the 67 years since the dawn of the nuclear age, none has been forthcoming.
Mayor Ray Cordova said that over the decades every family in Tularosa has suffered deaths and illness from the detonation.
"There is not a single family in Tularosa that I know of that has not been touched by cancer," Cordova said. "Every family has a member or two or three and some even four members in their family who have been afflicted. ... This place has been contaminated and I don't know when the U.S. Government is going to take this matter seriously and start helping people."
Cordova said he is convinced that the danger continues to this day.
"I believe that this whole basin was contaminated and remains contaminated; Every time we have a windstorm or a dust storm, that contamination goes back up in the air and more people are afflicted."
As part of the vigil, Joey Padilla, a medicine man from the nearby Mescalero Apache community, performed a personalized healing rite on the sick in attendance, and candle's and luminarias were lit in memory of those who have died, as well as survivors.