What did the community think when the announcement was made about the purpose of Hanford? Here's the Pasco Herald editor's comments.
Life has odd aspects
By the editor of the Pasco Herald
Published on August 9, 1945
Life is odd, from any angle you want to look at it.
Here we sit, on top of a volcano of news, for two years and a half.. And we can't talk about it.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
We can't mention a town of 30,000 that mushrooms up over night... a thing out of Alice in Wonderland.
And we can't talk about the town farther up the river, Hanford...a second Pittsburgh with its tall smokestacks belching busy black smoke, day and night...
No--we can't talk about it...but we are content to bide our time...wait for the time to come when the announcement can be made to the world...
Patiently we wait. Until we almost forget the fact that there is anything being made.
Then, poof, the news break comes on Monday, a deadly time for a weekly paper that goes to press Thursday...
And more than that...the news when it came was so tremendous..so soul-disturbing in its immensity...that again we just couldn't talk about it...mostly this time because of our own limitations.
However, we as a town can feel a certain pride in our own part in the vast project...
Handicapped as we were by our very inadequacy to care for the crowds of office men, scientists, laborers...that flooded Pasco in 1943..still as a town, we cheerfully did our best to assimilate the strangers into our midst...feed them...house them...supply them with what they needed.
Our compensation came from the fine men and women that we came to know and add to our circle of friends. That was ample compensation!
And now, from the thought that we helped, even in a small way, to bring the war to a speedier conclusion...Another compensation.
Words are inadequate
"The effects could be called unprecedented, magnificent, beautiful, stupendous and terrifying. No man-made phenomenon of such tremendous power had ever occurred before. The lightning effects beggared description. The whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many times that of the midday sun. It was golden, purple, violet, gray and blue. It lighted every peak, crevasse and ridge of the nearby mountain range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be seen to be imagined. It was that beauty the great poets dream bout but describe most poorly and inadequately. Thirty seconds after, the explosion came first, the air blast pressing hard against the people and things, to be followed almost immediately by the strong, sustained, awesome roar which warned of doomsday and made us feel that we puny things were blasphemous to dare tamper with the forces heretofore reserved to The Almighty. Words are inadequate tools for the job of acquainting those not present with the physical, mental and psychological effects. It had to be witnessed to be realized."
The above statement made by one of those witnessing the first trial explosion of the Atomic Bomb, made at Richland, conveys some idea of the significance of the thing. It is extremely difficult for us to realize the earth shaking importance of the discovery which another scientist termed more important than the discovery of electricity. Its far-reaching possibilities defy the imagination of those of us whose only experience has been with the lesser things of the past. We must readjust our thinking before we can comprehend the possibilities and the significance of this new discovery.
The awful power involved in the discovery imposes a heavy responsibility on our entire nation to see that it is used wisely and not for any selfish purposes. In the hands of the wrong people -- a Hitler or a Tojo -- it could wreck civilization. Unless we can control its use and direct its vast power to productive peace-time uses, it would have been far better if we had never discovered it at all.
Americans can take great pride in the discovery since it was their men of science, their statesmen, their engineers and military men who imagined it, worked it out, built the plant and brought it into use. It is one of the greatest achievements in all history and took the coordinated efforts of hundreds of thousands of people to accomplish. It is a thing to which we can point with pride for generations to come.
And, finally, Pasco can always claim its share of the project which was not inconsiderable by any means. It has been a great experience for our small community and we can take a justifiable pride in it.