An empty field, an obelisk and a few bits of twisted metal are all that remain at Trinity Site, but thousands still came to stand upon ground zero where the world’s first atomic explosion ushered the world into the nuclear age at 5:29 a.m. Mountain War Time on July 16, 1945.
“I really hadn’t known what to expect. It really puts it all into perspective,” said Jackie Shone as she departed the Trinity Site Open House that drew a crowd of more than 3,000 on Oct. 7, 2017, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
“I had absolutely no idea what to expect,” said her husband Tim. “It’s almost frightening for one to know that a radioactive test site was here two years before I was born,” said Shone, who included the open house among their travels from Hampshire, England.
The Trinity Site Open House is conducted annually by White Sands Missile Range on the first Saturday in April and October. The Trinity Site, which also includes the Schmidt/McDonald Ranch House where the plutonium core was assembled, was declared a national historic landmark in 1975.
Although the 51,000-acre site is located on an active testing range, WSMR opens its gates to help provide public access to the historic site. The site sits on a vast and flat hard-scrabble range within clear view of the Oscura Mountains. The location and history combine for a memorable visit for many.
“It’s amazing. It’s overwhelming to think that 70 years ago this could have happened,” said Theresa Evans, making her first visit to Trinity Site from Prattville, Ala., while visiting a friend in El Guique, N.M. But for others, the site is a place to return to year after year.
Scott Meyers travels from Tualatin, Ore., each year to attend both open houses, where he joins thousands of visitors at Ground Zero where an obelisk stands marking where the atomic bomb was suspended from a 100-foot steel tower.
He also visits the Schmidt/McDonald Ranch House about 2 miles from Ground Zero where the plutonium core was assembled on July 13, 1945, in the master bedroom that was made into a clean room by covering the doors and windows with plastic.
“It is an interesting place to be,” said Meyers in explaining why he keeps coming back. “You are at a place where a very historical event happened.”
Meyers said he also appreciates the effort by WSMR to make the site available twice a year, and complimented the organizers for making such a rustic site so accommodating for visitors.
“We are happy that so many people were able to visit,” said Cammy Montoya, a WSMR affairs officer who has overseen the Trinity Site Open House the past six years. “We take pride in being good stewards of this National Historic Landmark by providing a safe and enjoyable environment to our visitors.”