Making Stringless Yoyos
“My father must have been one of the first guards hired at Rocky Flats in 1952, shortly after my birth. We moved to Arvada in 1957 to the Hutchinson Homes [subdivision] just about a block east of the McDonalds restaurant. We went to church at the Presbyterian Church on the top of the hill across from the cemetery. I was a 9th grader at Oberon Junior High the first year it opened, and my best friend and I wrote the school fight song.
Before long Dad became a chemical operator. Of course, he couldn’t tell us what he did at work – he always joked about making stringless yoyos and straw hats. As I got a little older I became aware of recurring security checks conducted with some of our neighbors. When I was in high school, I got involved in local politics and I know it made Dad nervous that I might get wrapped up in something that would jeopardize his security clearance. I started college the fall after the 1969 fire, and I was aware by then that they were working with radioactive materials and that it was an incredible process to clean up after the fire. He sometimes spoke of having to take “clean up” showers – and I wonder if they didn’t contribute to the terrible skin problems he suffered from. I remember (not sure when exactly, but while I was in college 1969-73) the first time we were able to go past the guard shack for a “family day” tour of one building where we saw what must have been replicas of the glove boxes. That was when I learned that Dad was working with plutonium, but I knew little more than that.
Dad worked at Rocky Flats for 30 years and took early retirement . . . he never spoke of any particular dangers. Especially in the later years of his life, I became even more aware of the extreme loyalty people who worked with him had for each other, and what was probably denial of a lot of what he knew to be true or at least suspected.
I have always had a nagging sense of something I can only call guilt that our living was provided by this kind of business. Realizing how unaware the general public was of the horrible situation at Rocky Flats helps me deal somewhat with that. Now my niece and her young son live very close to Standley Lake in a brand new house – so the building continues out that way. Scary thought. After reading your book I spoke with one of my brothers who told me he was among the demonstrators in the 1970′s out near the plant (while Dad was working there). I was unaware of that before. So the layers continue to unfold.”
–A reader in Colorado