This is/was the view from my bedroom window in The Allegheny National Forest where I grew-up. First thing every morning, I lifted the blinds to make sure it was still there. A half-century later my bedroom is gone but the Tree, the Forest, and the Smoke are all still there.
The Easy Layup
December 9th 1965. I was 12 years old and we were getting some basketball in before our dirt court became an ice-skating rink. Every year the alternating ritual of basketball and ice-skating repeated itself like clockwork. My friend and I had just out-maneuvered his Dad and were looking at an easy lay-up in a vicious game of 2 on 1. Suddenly, he began shouting and pointing his finger at the sky behind me, “Look! Look! A UFO!” A trick, I thought, to steal the ball while my head was turned. I refused to fall for it but he continued with gathering urgency until I could resist no longer. I banked-in the two points, turned, and saw a long multi-colored tail of light behind a beautiful orange glowing object streaking across the sky. The three of us watched the scene in stone-cold silence: strange multi-colored lights, moving slowly across the sky, in complete silence. It fit the standard description of a UFO but I thought it was a meteor burning-up in the atmosphere. My friend’s Dad was having none of that and as we headed headed home across the field pitching the ball back ‘n forth we could see how enthralled he was with seeing his first UFO. We let him have his moment…after all, we had just owned him for an easy layup!
Being There Now
For me, something happened during that event that was far stranger than a UFO. Standing under the basket looking silently at the sky the odd feeling that everything is now washed over me…as if time didn’t really exist. I knew I’d never forget that moment. And I haven’t. It made me a sitting duck in adulthood for esoteric teachings, the Zen of trout fishing, quantum physics, the Tao of motorcycling, and Shipley’s hot glaze donuts. Ironically, I still do not believe in UFOs or ancient aliens…
The Kecksburg Incident
Many years later the TV show Ancient Aliens devoted an episode to the “Kecksburg Incident,” an account of a UFO crash-landing in Western Pennsylvania outside the town of Kecksburg. The breathless account included all the usual suspects: a UFO witnessed by hundreds, a crash-landing in the forest, and military vehicles rushing in to retrieve the alien bodies and their craft. And then it happened – the flight path based on eye-witness accounts was put on the screen showing a line right over my old home in The Allegheny Forest. And then I noticed the date… December 9th 1965 – the very day of the easy lay-up.
In the 50th Anniversary coverage of The Kecksburg Incident by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and in the Ancient Aliens TV show, I learned that the day I saw a UFO had become second only to Roswell for true believers in extra-terrestrials. On the 50th anniversary of the crash a new explanation was revealed that seems to put the matter to rest. It turns out the object burning-up in the atmosphere that day was a General Electric Mark 2 Re-entry Vehicle returning to Earth after placing a spy satellite into orbit. Which explains the military vehicles that showed-up. “Meteor” became the cover story as 1965 was the height of The Cold War.
The Tao of Now
Back in the day people said “UFO” in order to hide what they were really thinking: flying saucers…extra-terrestrials…girls from Rigel 7. Now people talk about aliens with no fear of ridicule at all. Fantasy is the new real and real is becoming virtual. We see it everywhere: in politics, on social media, in music by The Flaming Lips (God bless ’em), and in the full length mirror on the closet door. I believe more than ever there are no such things as aliens – everyone is already identified…everything is real…everything is now.
I’ll never forget the day when the way I see was changed forever…and that easy layup.
My sisters walking through our old house identifying the rooms they played-in as children. The UFO moved silently across the sky from left-to-right heading south to Kecksburg though at the time and for decades to come I wouldn’t know the ruckus it caused and continues to cause in that small Pennsylvania town.
August 14th 2016
The Post-Gazette article was so interesting to me for how the eyewitness accounts matched my own descriptions of the “meteor”
For anyone interested in the infamous Kecksburg Incident and the solution to the mystery you can read the story HERE
True believers will not be dissuaded…which is as it should be