Downwinder Vigil

Idaho Downwinder advocate and frequent spokesperson Tona Henderson and her husband John place the banner announcing the planned candlelight vigil for cancer victims to be held in Bowman Park at 7 p.m. on September 11.

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It was September 11, 2004 that Idaho Downwinders held their first open public forum to bring their decades-long fight for fair federal treatment of local victims of cancer attributable to nuclear testing in the 1940’s and after.

This Saturday night, September 11, 2021, at 7 p.m. the organization will be holding a candlelight vigil in Roy Bowman Family Memorial Park in hopes of reigniting continued efforts to get action from Washington D.C.

U.S. Senator Mike Crapo attended that first meeting held in Emmett City Park seventeen years ago and has been leading congressional efforts to include Gem County in the financial compensation package provided by the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. Crapo has offered numerous amendments to the act over the years but to date has been unable to get enough congressional support to move forward to including portions of Idaho, Arizona, and New Mexico — among others — in an act that has been compensating numerous other pockets of radiation exposure victims for years. Many of those populations excluded from the compensation have been classified as having higher exposure rates than many of those currently covered — including Gem County which had among the highest detected levels.

Next week bills will be introduced in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate to hopefully make this quest a reality. The urgency for passing an amendment this congressional cycle is heightened by the fact that the original act authorization will expire next year.

Representatives from Senator Crapo’s office have committed to being at the Vigil and the Senator is hopeful to be there as well. Organizers want to take the time to honor those who have suffered cancer and collect letters detailing the impact that the nuclear radiation fallout had on countless of Gem County lives over the past half century.

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