Women’s basic training against atomic radiation at Fort Dix, NJ. May, 1980 © Jean-Pierre Laffont
Two memories stand out to Terrine Crooks from her arrival at George Air Force Base in the summer of 1980. One is the sense of apprehension she felt at seeing for the first time the broad, flat, barren expanse of the base on the skirt-tails of the Mojave Desert. “I was like, ‘oh my God.’ I was a New Hampshire girl who’d left a beautiful green land.”
The second, she said, was how she was told by in-processing personnel not to get pregnant while stationed there.
“I was young, I didn’t question it,” she said. “I already had a daughter.”
Crooks quickly settled into life at George. She met her future husband there. And toward the end of 1981, she did indeed become pregnant. In April of the following year, however, her son Brian arrived 13 weeks prematurely. Within his first few months of life, Brian suffered multiple brain hemorrhages, and eventually developed an array of ongoing health conditions and disabilities, including cerebral palsy. Then, when Crooks turned 30, her own health began to deteriorate.
She had a hysterectomy at 31, after suffering for years with endometriosis, uterine fibroids and heavy bleeding during menstruation. When she turned 40, she had a bilateral mastectomy.