"I can handle one goof ball, but over 10,000?"
It was an ordinary March evening in Arizona. The sun had just set, and many armature star gazers were outside waiting to see if the long awaited Hale Bopp Comet would be in view. Astronomers had predicted that Hale Bopp would be the closest to Earth on March 22nd, so March 13th was good enough for many to start watching. The sky was clear, and the temperature was tolerable. What people saw on that early March evening was much, much more that they had bargained for.
The sightings started in Henderson, Nevada and continued on to the southwest. The phenomena people witnessed are now referred to as the "Phoenix Lights". However, I believe that to be a misnomer. Since it started on the Nevada/Arizona border and continued down over Phoenix, over Tucson and then to Northern Mexico, it was more than just Phoenix. I was way, way more than just Phoenix.
Since the event happened soon after sundown, some witnessed more than just "lights". This thing had shape - and a big one. One witness was asked if he could have been mistaken in what he thought he saw. He was asked if what he witnessed could have been a B-2 Bomber. After all, the shape was similar. His response was simple - he was familiar with what B-2 bombers looked like. He said "You could have parked 40 B-2 bombers on the wings of that thing and had room let over."
So what was it? This thing that some believe was over a mile wide and made little or no noise as it drifted past. For over 10,000 people who saw "something", don't you think that our government, or Mexico's government, would have been alarmed that something this size would be violating our airspace undetected? Would not Luke Air Force Base have been on full alert? Did something a mile wide show up on Luke's radar. If not, why not. After all this was worse than a hostile country violating our airspace.
This event in 1997 is still one of the largest UFO sightings in our history. Could it have been mass hysteria? Was it too many of those famous southwest Chile peppers consumed for dinner by many? Or, "weather balloons" like the cover story for the 1947 Roswell incident? Flares dropped from A-10 "Warthogs" during a night time training exercise? Even the Governor, John Fife Symington III, has said many times since he left office, it was not of the above - it was a huge UFO. After all, he like many others, witnessed it.
Frances Barwood, a city council member at the time of the incident, did her own investigation. She interviewed over 700 Phoenix residents who saw the lights. Not one of them said anyone from the government ever contacted them to hear their story. It was as if the incident had never happened.
But something did happen. If the witness testimonials are true, and something this big, this quiet, and this stealthy invaded our airspace, it is a huge story. If it was mass hysteria, a hoax or just plain something "worldly" (rather than other-worldly), it would be nice to know that also. What we are left with is simply a mystery with a whole lot of questions. And for many in Arizona, some very disturbing memories.