Oppenheimer movie logo and poster on screen.

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‘Can’t wait for the “Oppenheimer” buzz to die’: 17 of woman’s classmates got leukemia following atomic bomb test depicted in film

'Tell THAT story, Hollywood.'


Tricia Crimmins


Posted on Jul 26, 2023   Updated on Jul 26, 2023, 5:00 pm CDT

Amid the hype for Oppenheimer, a woman says that her mother experienced radiation from the first atomic bomb dropped in the U.S.

The creation of the bombs is depicted in the highly anticipated movie Oppenheimer, which premiered last Friday and tells the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project.

In a tweet posted on Thursday, Alisa Lynn Valdés says that her mother was 18 months old when she lived in the fallout zone of the first atomic bomb in New Mexico. Valdés also says that her mother’s peers experienced side effects from the radiation: “Of the 21 girls in her high school class, 17 had leukemia.”

“Can’t wait for the Oppenheimer buzz to die. The bomb those men built? They dropped in on New Mexico to test it. On my mother,” Valdés tweeted. “Tell THAT fucking story, Hollywood.” (Valdés did not respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.)

The first atomic bomb was set off at the Trinity test site in New Mexico on July 16, 1945. The people living near the test site were not informed that an atomic bomb would be detonated near their homes. Just weeks later, in August 1945, the second and third atomic bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

Communities affected by the atomic bomb test site in New Mexico and other bomb sites across the U.S. call themselves downwinders because they lived and/or live downwind of nuclear and open-air explosion sites. Valdés included the hashtag #downwinders in a reply to her initial tweet.

Radiation exposure can cause a host of cancers, including but not limited to leukemia—which Valdés mentioned her mother’s classmates had—lymphoma, breast cancer, brain cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, and stomach cancer. Oppenheimer himself died of throat cancer in 1967.

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which aims to compensate victims of the life-threatening side effects of radiation, was initially passed in 1990 and was extended most recently in 2022 by President Joe Biden.

It turns out that more people might be downwinders had initially been calculated: A study on historical weather data from Princeton University released last Thursday found that radioactive particles were found in “all 48 contiguous U.S. states,” and Canada and Mexico in 1945.

Valdés also tweeted that her great-grandfather saw the bomb go off at Trinity on July 16, 1945.

“He [thought] the sun rose twice that day,” she tweeted. “No one warned them.”

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*First Published: Jul 26, 2023, 4:57 pm CDT