At the top of the hill behind our house stands the Arvada cemetery. The year 1863 is etched in a stone marker at the entrance. The cemetery works like a magnet. As soon as our mother puts us out into the yard for the afternoon—just like the kids and grandkids on the family farm back in Iowa, who were expected to fend for themselves for the day—my sisters and I scramble over the fence and head for the hill. We trek across the field behind the row of backyards and through the old apple orchard and get up to the creek, where we balance a flat plank across the shallow, sluggish water and tiptoe across. At the crest of the hill stand row after row of headstones. Some have the names of children or images of their faces etched in the stone, and we stay away from those. We look down the hill to our house and imagine our mother, big and round, lying on her bed and waiting for the next baby, a boy at last, she’s sure of it. A little farther, we can see the Arvada Villa Pizza Parlor and the Arvada Beauty Academy. Between our neighborhood and the long, dark line of mountains stands a single white water tower, all by itself.
Kristen Iversen’s excerpt of FULL BODY BURDEN in The Nation, June 11, 2012 .pdf
Each morning over coffee, I scour the want ads. It’s 1994; I’m a single mother and graduate student who needs a job with flexible hours. And then, there it is, a large ad: administrative skills, flexible hours, $12.92 an hour. The Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site is hiring. Start immediately, it says. Environmental Technology Site? It used to be known as the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility. When I was growing up nearby, my family and most of our neighbors thought Rocky Flats made household-cleaning supplies. In fact, Rocky Flats secretly produced plutonium triggers or “pits” for nuclear bombs—some 70,000 plutonium triggers over the course of more than 30 years (see timeline). By the late 1970s, as the truth began to spread, people protested at the bomb plant and worried about radioactive and toxic waste in surrounding neighborhoods. Plutonium-trigger production ended in 1989 after the FBI and EPA raided the plant, leading to a grand jury investigation (which was eventually thwarted). Still, the site remained open, and a new company, EG&G, took over.
But in ’94 I don’t know all this. . . .
Kristen Iversen’s, July 12, 2012 excerpt of FULL BODY BURDEN in Reader’s Digest .pdf