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My life has been plagued by the atomic bomb. It has been ruined, not in the  horrible explosive way most people associate with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but rather it’s been permanently twisted in a silent, omnipresent, chronic-disease sort of way. The reason for my problem was that I always, without any responsibility on my part, have been thrust into a close proximity to these things. Because of the proximity, my mind has this permanent bent to feel there was something I should be doing personally to help the world survive the devastation that has always seemed imminent to me.

I can remember listening to my grandfather’s floor model Zenith radio and hearing the announcement of the end of World War Two and the destruction of two Japanese cities by a single bomb each. It was so thrilling that I tried to run the quarter mile up the gravel road to tell my cousin Tomas, but couldn’t run the whole way because the stones hurt my bare feet too much and I had to walk the last half way. By the time I got there the news had already spread. Those events were so strange and traumatic that I still remember the painful time and my feet which were so bruised I had trouble walking for several days.

Earlier today, while checking out my possible high school reunion, I stumbled upon a site with some North Richland, Washington, photographs. That was where I lived for three years, 1950-53. I and my stepsister were the closest children living near to the Hanford reactors. These were the source for the plutonium for the Alamogordo A-bomb and the one that destroyed Nagasaki. It was not my choice to be living there, but of the billions of people on this planet, there I was.

North Richland Washington

North Richland, Washington trailer camp, with the atomic reactors in the distance.

This aerial photograph was taken about a year before we moved into the very last lot straight down the middle road. One time I walked across the street from our trailer home into the huge empty field and within a couple of minutes was picked up by the police. There didn’t seem to be any particular restrictions on thought or movement, but I couldn’t walk across the street without a reprimand.

As dreary as this huge temporary trailer camp looks I don’t remember anyone being depressed and there was always something to do and people to visit. Shortly after departing this desolation I was working as a farm hand in Antelope, Oregon, and took a photograph that won Slide of the Year in the Santa Barbara Camera Club. That always struck me as strange because I had absolutely no visual arts background but I did enjoy looking at nature. What could possibly stimulate an artistic development in this place where the universe has located its devilish contraptions?

Part 2 will get to Roosevelt, Oppenheimer, Cunningham, Urey, Lawrence and Lemay.