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Trinity Site expects uptick in visitors this weekend because of "Oppenheimer" film

Sign at the Trinity Site in southern New Mexico.
Megan Kamerick
Sign at the Trinity Site in southern New Mexico.

Officials with White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico are expecting even more visitors than usual for its Trinity Site open house on Saturday. The public affairs office is warning of waits up to two hours to enter the site. They attribute the uptick to renewed interest in nuclear history following the release of the film “Oppenheimer.”

The Trinity Site, where the first atomic explosion took place in 1945, is housed on the missile range and is only open to the public twice a year. Members of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium will be stationed outside Stallion Gate to offer what they call a counternarrative to “Oppenheimer.”

“For us it’s an opportunity just to educate people about the truth,” says Tina Cordova, cofounder of the Consortium, which protests outside the gate on every open house day to tell visitors of the thousands of people who lived within miles of the explosion.

“As close as that gate right there where they turn through,” she said. “You can see an abandoned ranch house right there and that people lived as close as 12 miles and we’re those people, that were never warned and have been suffering health consequences ever since.”

Cordova says over the years they have had many people stop to talk to the Consortium and learn about their history.

“As a matter of fact we even have some people stop and say ‘Now that I’ve heard this, I don’t think I’m going to go in.’” she said. “So it’s a good thing we are there. And we pass out our literature and we will pass out hundreds of flyers.”

The protest comes as legislation to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act has advanced further than ever before. It would cover Trinity downwinders and certain uranium miners and is in the Senate version of the Defense Authorization Act. But its future is uncertain given the current upheaval in the House of Representatives.

A new documentary about the downwinders, “First We Bombed New Mexico,” is screening this weekend at the Santa Fe International Film Festival.

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