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The Atomic Test Bomb, WWII New Mexico

By Crystal Hackney

Crystal Hackney wrote this paper in response to a prompt to write an essay which used primary research and explored a historical topic.

No matter how you feel about the atomic bomb, it ended World War II. We were in the midst of chaos and ruin for not only the United States but the whole world. It was a terrible war that most people didn’t understand. There were so many bad things happening to innocent people. The atomic bomb killed many innocent Japanese lives but it was required for the war to end, and to save American soldiers’ lives. Japan and Germany surrendered and the allies were victorious. Some people like my great grandma didn’t understand the importance of the atomic test bomb, or even other major events.

My great grandma Manuela “Nellie” Misquez, lived through the atomic bomb testing that happened at McGregor Range. She was nineteen years old when the atomic bomb testing happened on July 16th, 1945. I asked my great grandma about her experience. She said there was a gigantic flash of light that lit up her entire house; she felt the ground shake and heard a loud boom. She told me she had known there was going to be something happening that day, but there were no details except that. She said she went to bed like normal, then woke up when the explosion happened and she went right back to bed after the flash of light. She said it was like any other night. I was surprised at how little she cared about it, and how little effect something so huge and life changing for the world had on her.

My great grandma Nellie was born and raised in New Mexico, and her mother and grandma were born in La Luz. My great grandma lived in an adobe house, which was one story with three bedrooms, with a front and back porch. She lived with her five brothers and her mother.  She used a water pump to get water which was in her backyard. There was an outhouse outside because they had no running water or electricity, and they had dirt floors. The house was on Pennsylvania road which had two lanes. She said the road was eventually made into four lanes because more traffic went through it. The road was named White Sand Boulevard after the atomic bomb explosion aftermath.

My great grandma Nellie told me a lot about her everyday life growing up. She told me they had many animals they got their food from, like lots of chickens, a couple ducks, cows, two pigs and they also had two dogs as pets. She said there were coyotes and snakes that lived in the woods and desert around her house and they would sometimes eat the chickens, but they were very used to people. They also had a garden where they grew many fruits and vegetables. My great grandma said they would pickle and dry their meat, chili’s and fruit. To dry things they would wrap the food in cloth and hang it up in a shed in their backyard to dry out. My great grandma said she had to do chores like washing the dishes but sometimes her older brothers told her they would do them for her, which hearing that was very sweet. She also brought water inside and made tortillas, and her brothers chopped the wood. She told me the most important thing she ever learned and lived by was to never burn anything when her neighbors had clean clothes and bedding outside hanging up to dry, the neighbors knew it too, it was just a common courtesy. They had two stoves, one was inside for cooking and warmth during winter and the other was outside for the summer, so they could cook but it wouldn’t be hot inside, seeing how it would sometimes reach temperatures of 105 degrees. They had no washing machine so they had to do all their clothes washing by hand with a washboard. She said there were lots of Native Americans she spent time with because there was a Native American Reservation nearby. A lot of her friends were Native American and that would often come over to her house.

While my great grandma Nellie was living her life, there were scientists who were building the most powerful bombs ever made, these bombs were being created to stop World War II. The scientists were making an atomic test bomb that would be dropped in the desert of Alamogordo, New Mexico, to see if this bomb would be powerful enough to destroy the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. The scientists began building the bomb at a base camp in New Mexico, and the McDonald ranch house where the bomb’s plutonium core was assembled.  It was called Project Trinity test. The bomb was put on a 100-foot tower, called Ground Zero, then was detonated at 5:30 a.m. The area where the bomb exploded was named Trinity Site. Not a lot of information was given to the public until after it was used against the Japanese which is probably why my grandma reacted the way she did.

Now my great grandma Nellie is 93 years old, still the strong woman I know. A couple days after I interviewed her for this essay, she told my cousin Eugene she wanted to go to the hospital because her legs were hurting her and she was having trouble breathing. Now this was something very surprising because my great grandma hates the hospital and will do anything to avoid going. So obviously it was very important and she was in great pain. They told us she had atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. This made me think I was supposed to interview her, and at this time. I went to visit her in the hospital with my mom, and to see her so depleted really broke me. I’m realizing that she is getting old, but losing her will be hard not only for me but my whole family because she is the glue of our family. She kept saying, ‘Why doesn’t the good Lord bring me home, I need to go home… I shouldn’t be alive”. We told her to stop talking like that, because we love her and want her to fight. She spoke like this when she lost her grandson a few years ago and her daughter one year ago. After going through traumatic events, she goes into these trance-like-episodes, that we think are brought on by anxiety. Sometimes they last minutes, hours, days, or months. She’s been through a battery of tests, and the doctors have no explanation for it. I think that’s how she processes pain, so I’m glad she didn’t go through any tremendous pain when she was younger through the war, because my family may not be here now.

My great grandma is a very strong woman and has been through a lot throughout her long life. I think the atomic bomb didn’t affect her life very much. It didn’t cause problems or anything, which is a good thing. Instead it preserved her life allowing her to live out the rest of her life in peace without fear of the war. She got to live her life and grow old. Sometimes not knowing everything about something like a war is a good thing. The atomic test bomb was an important event in history, but turns out it wasn’t that important of an event for my great grandma. Also, after learning that although the United States ended the war with the atomic bombs dropping on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they did the atomic test bomb very close to Native American reservations in New Mexico. That says something about the United States government and how much they take the well-being of the Native Americans into account, and the other families living close-by seeing how no information was given to them.

Works Cited

“Trinity Site.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 18 Sept. 2017, www.nps.gov/whsa/learn/historyculture/trinity-site.htm.

Manula “Nellie” Misquez


Professor Manning had this to say about Crystal Hackney’s writing, at first Crustal wasn’t sure she had much to write about because initially her grandmother didn’t understand what was happening but that becomes the story. Doing this research helped Crystal understand the greater significance of the story. She learned a lot more about the significance of something she had been hearing about for a while as she researched the Manhattan project. This is a perfect sample essay for his assignment because it links the primary research to a larger unique context.


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