Residents of new Mexico reflect on the toxic legacy of life at the center of the US nuclear complex
by Samuel Gilbert/Al Jazeera
Seventy years ago last August, a B-29 bomber named the Enola Gay released its 4,000kg load over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, the sudden loss of weight jolting the US aircraft violently upwards as the pilot banked hard to escape the imminent blast.
“My God, what have we done,” wrote Enola Gay co-pilot Robert Lewis, recalling in his journal the morning of August 6, 1945, when he witnessed the atomic bomb, code-named Little Boy, successfully detonate 1,800 feet above Hiroshima. The blast killed tens of thousands of people instantly and leveled more than half of the city.
Two weeks earlier, the first atomic device, called the “Gadget”, had been successfully tested at the Trinity Site in the white sands desert of New Mexico.
“The hills were bathed in a brilliant light, as if somebody had turned the sun on with a switch,” said Otto Frisch, a physicist for the Manhattan Project, who designed the first theoretical mechanism for the detonation of an atomic bomb, in his account of the early morning blast described by Eric Schlosser in his book Command And Control.
The light from the explosion was seen up to 320 kilometres away in the town of Gallup, and the shockwave – covered up by the US government as an ammunition dump explosion – was felt as far as Albuquerque.