David Sirota visits the atomic sites of the American Southwest for an inside look at a booming—and potentially radioactive—new travel industry
Author David Sirota Photography Bryon Darby
ON OUR WAY back up to the surface, I meet fellow atomic tourist Dan Dansro, a crewmember at the Titan site in the 1970s who is visiting from Albuquerque with his wife and two teenage grandsons. Underneath the lobby’s “peace through deterrence” sign, he fondly reminisces about the uncomfortable situations and camaraderie that come with regularly working in a claustrophobic bunker for 24-hour shifts. But the 63-year-old’s expression turns more serious when I ask him what feels like a taboo question—would he have followed the ultimate order from his commanders to turn the Cold War hot?
“The closest I ever got to that was when they told us to get our keys out of the safe,” he says. “It only happened once on my shift, and if it came to that, I would have done what I was trained to do, because I understood the importance of this weapon system.” Looking out across the dirt to the silo cover, he pauses, takes a deep breath, and in a somber voice adds, “The thing is, I never wanted to turn the keys. Never.”
DAVID SIROTA is a bestselling author and journalist. He looks back fondly on the duck-and-cover drills of his grade school years.