Published: 4:53 PM 3/18/2013
By The Republican, MICHAEL C. CAROLAN
I was driving my daughter to swim team practice one recent night when we saw something curious fly right over the road near the Amherst landfill on the outskirts of town.
That is one weird plane, I said, referring to the cargo planes that we see all the time flying down to the Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee. This was much smaller though, and flew much lower, with most unsual lights. It made not a sound.
Its a UFO, Hattie said to me. Shes 11.
Wow, I said, and I thought little about it until my neighbor rang me up a few days later.
Ive got some exciting news, she exclaimed. Belchertown Road was visited by aliens the other night. Perhaps you should prepare the backyard so they can land.
Theres two-and-a-half acres back there, some of which is clear of trees.
She is Russian.
No kidding? I said, and recalled reading about a factory town east of Moscow where panicked citizens stripped shelves of matches, sugar and candles anticipating the Mayan apocalypse in December.
Sure enough, turning on the news, the UFO was all over: the television, the newspaper, on the Internet. Residents reported strange lights and objects. Officials said there was no plane in the sky over town that night.
I called my mother. Shes actually seen a UFO or two. Millions of people have seen them, she said. The government always denies it.
We saw something, I said.
My son overheard us and said he saw it, too. Turns out he was a mile south of my daughter and I, driving with my wife that night.
Triangular in shape, much smaller than the C-5s, flying low, making no sound, he agreed.
I watched it for like five minutes, he said.
Do you think it was a UFO, I asked.
Definitely not a plane, he said. Probably a drone.
We didnt have unmanned aircraft when I was a kid. I called my father, an engineer. He offered an idea: The military might have buried some radioactive material in the landfill there and were testing their drone to see if it could detect it.
Huh? Even dad is coming up with something. I thought about how we terrestrials explain the unexplainable.
Three years ago, one of those enormous C-5s lost two of its 28 wheels, both of which landed in the woods not but a mile away from our home. The plane is the largest aircraft on the planet. The airbase eventually came by to claim the wheels and apologized, but my children and I began looking more closely when those planes flew overhead.
Then, I remembered one Easter eve back when my daughter Hattie was 3 years old.
She looked at her mother and I, her eyes wide, and asked, Will the Easter bunny come into my room?
We grinned. Our daughters imagination had taken over and the mythical bunny had suddenly become real, even menacing, with ears and a hat perhaps, creeping through the house at night, even into her room while she was fast asleep.
She believed. In much the same way the media told us that what we collectively saw had foundation in reality: we believed.
A few weeks later, the Federal Aviation Administration retracted its earlier statement. There was a C-5 in the area after all. But, we know that what we saw was not a C-5.
The night after my Russian neighbor called, I showed Hattie the news report on the Internet. A reporter interviewed people in a café that we frequent.
The following day, Hattie announced to her class that she, her father and brother had definitely seen the UFO over our town.
Michael C. Carolan, of Belchertown, writes fiction and nonfiction and is an instructor in the Department of English at Clark University in Worcester.