Two pages away in my atlas
Was the first atomic blast.
Four hundred twenty five miles
And seventy years in the past.
Away from my home in the Gila,
Away from my life, safe and sound,
And sometimes open to tourists,
A place where history’s found.
A stub from the tower’s support leg
The nearby house where they staged
A patch of glassified sand
Preserved from an earlier age.
The trinitite’s been buried
And desert grasses have grown.
Shrubs and thistles have reclaimed
This patch of their ancestral home.
I’ll start my own superstition,
And share it now with my friends.
If I stand just once at ground zero
I’ll never have to again.
July 16th is the anniversary of the first atomic bomb blast, an above-ground test in the New Mexico desert code-named Trinity. Much to many people’s surprise, the site is cleaned up and open twice a year to tourists. It’s located on the White Sands Missile Range, an active military base, don’t just turn up unexpected. There’s not much to see, but you can safely visit the first Ground Zero.
I worked for many years in America’s nuclear weapons complex and I’ve held plutonium in my (gloved) hand. Now I’ve also held a bit of the sandy clay soil turned to glass by the explosion at Trinity.
The Bomb led us out of World War II and into the Cold War, which shaped so much of what America did in the world. We escaped further war-time use of The Bomb and I hope that fortune continues.
A friend of mine has written a book about the place we worked – Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado, now demolished and turned into a wildlife habitat – and it’s highly political final days after the Cold War fizzled out. There’s so much bad information out there that I recommend the book to anyone who’s curious about Rocky Flats.