Everything changed in the summer of 1945.
Two atom bombs, the deadliest weapon ever built at the time, were dropped on major cities in Japan.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be forever remembered for the heartbreaking destruction that followed.
Almost 100,000 people were instantly killed, and both cities were leveled by the attack.
About 9,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean, those bombs were developed in New Mexico.
Half a decade earlier, the Manhatten project saw thousands of scientists converge in Alamagordo for the first-ever test detonation of a nuclear bomb.
And by 1945, the first nuclear test took place just outside the south central New Mexican city in the the northern tip of the Chihuahuan Desert.
Generations later, the state’s nuclear research continues at Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories.
Oct. 30, 2017 was designated as the ninth National Day of Remembrance to honor New Mexican contributions to the country’s nuclear programs, read a news release from Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM).
“Thousands of scientists, maintenance workers, miners, millers and support staff in New Mexico and across the country quietly devoted their lives and sacrificed their health in service of our national defense during the Cold War era,” Udall said.
“This resolution honors the men and women throughout New Mexico and the nation who worked tirelessly, many of whom unknowingly jeopardized their own well-being to develop and support our nuclear deterrent.”
But the bipartisan resolution isn’t only aimed at thanking the state’s nuclear workers.
Udall said he will continue to negotiate with federal lawmakers to ensure Cold War and Manhattan Project veterans have proper access to health services and compensation for their efforts.
He also demanded adequate healthcare for those New Mexicans exposed to radiation during the state’s storied history in the nuclear industry.
“These individuals are patriots, and we must continue to work to ensure that Manhattan Project and Cold War veterans — as well as those affected by nuclear weapons testing — receive the care and compensation they deserve,” Udall said.
To that end, the senators also introduced legislation this year, the release read, to expand restitution for New Mexicans and other affected by exposure to radiation during weapons development.
Proposed amendments to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act are intended to broaden restitution to include New Mexico, and increase restitution for those suffering from cancer or any medical problems linked to radiation exposure from weapons development.
“Too many of these individuals remain uncompensated for their hardship,” Udall said. “And I continue to fight for justice for these victims.”
Read more at New Mexico’s nuclear weapon legacy honored by senators