ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) — Thousands of visitors converged Saturday on the New Mexico site where the first nuclear bomb was detonated nearly 70 years ago.
More than 5,500 people attended the first of two tours being offered this year at the Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range officials said.
Visitors came not just from all over New Mexico but the U.S. People are continually fascinated to see the place that literally marks a turning point in history, White Sands spokeswoman Erin Dorrance said.
"It brought a quick end to World War II, and it ushered in the atomic age," Dorrance said. "So out here in the middle of nowhere New Mexico changed the world 70 years ago."
It was July 16, 1945, when Los Alamos scientists successfully exploded the first atomic bomb at the Trinity Site, located near Alamogordo.
Pete Rosada, a Marine Corps veteran, drove with another military veteran from San Diego to make the tour. Rosada, 47, said he previously visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese targets of atomic bombs during World War II after the test at the Trinity Site.
"This completes the loop," Rosado told the Alamogordo Daily News (http://bit.ly/19Vq4oJ).
Several documentary crews, including some from Japan, were present.
Many attendees posed for pictures near an obelisk marking the exact location where the bomb went off. They were also able to see a steel shell that was created as a backup plan to keep plutonium from spreading during the explosion.
Tourists who joined a vehicle caravan out to the site at a school in Tularosa were greeted by protesters from the Tularosa Basin Downwinders. The Downwinders is a grass-roots group that has set out to bring public awareness about the negative impacts of the detonation of the bomb.
"In my family, there's six family members that have cancer, and two have died from cancer," said Jan Rael, a Downwinder member. "I've just had it in my heart for so long that something was wrong because of the atomic bomb at the Trinity Site."
The group is pushing for Congress to include affected New Mexico residents under the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
The next Trinity Site tour is scheduled for Oct. 3.
Information from: Alamogordo Daily News, http://www.alamogordonews.com