The Year Of The UFO

Some people have dubbed 2021 “The Year Of The UFO.” A Forbes article published this week recounts some of the UFO-related event that have occurred this year. They include a spike in UFO sightings, as well as the release of UFO-related reports and documents by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Forbes summarizes the latter report as addressing “144 UFO sightings by Navy pilots since 2004, with intelligence officials unable to explain 143 of the sightings, but concluding they are likely real objects that could pose a threat to national security.”

The most recent milestone in “The Year Of The UFO” came just a few days ago, when the Pentagon issued a press release announcing the creation of a new program called the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group. The AOIMSG will collect and review reports of UFOs in special use airspace, like the areas around military bases, to “assess and mitigate any associated threats to safety of flight and national security.” The new initiative suggests that the U.S. military is taking the issue of UFOs seriously–which is quite a difference from the days when UFO sightings were routinely dismissed as reflections from “swamp gas” or other figments of overactive imaginations.

Of course, UFOs don’t necessarily mean we’ve been visited by technologically advanced extraterrestrial beings. But if other life out there wanted to visit Earth, it’s worth noting that our little planet wouldn’t be especially hard to find–as an interesting article published earlier this year points out. An Austrian astrophysicist considered whether other nearby star systems would be in a position to see our planet transiting the Sun, which is one of the techniques that our scientists currently use to identify planets in other star systems. She concluded that hundreds of star systems could have used that method to spot Earth since the dawn of recorded human history, and hundreds more could do so in the future.

Who knows? If there is life in those other star systems, maybe they’ve decided to pay us a visit. Let’s face it: as weird as 2021 has been, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility.

To Help Us All Remember

Today, the Ohio Statehouse lawn was graced with hundreds of tiny American flags arranged in neat rows.  The Flag Memorial featured 2,977 flags — one for each of the people murdered in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 — and were configured to group the flags to reflect the people who were killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the downed plane in Pennsylvania.

2,977 flags is a lot of flags, and 2,977 lives was a lot of lives.  It is important for us always to remember that.

I Remember

I remember being at my desk when the attorney in the office next door told me that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

I remember when he told me moments later that another plane had crashed into the other tower, and we both realized, with a stunned, sinking feeling, that this must be intentional — and in that dark,  brutal instant, everything changed.

I remember watching the small TV in his office, feeling sick and amazed and helpless as the towers fell, and we heard that the Pentagon was hit, and we learned that another plane had crashed in Pennsylvania, and we wondered where else the terrorists might strike.

I remember driving out of an almost deserted downtown Columbus, after the authorities decided it should be evacuated.

I remember feeling immensely relieved when we picked up the boys from school and got them home and felt that everyone in our family was safe.

I remember watching the TV news for hours, flipping from channel to channel, aghast and horrified at the overwhelming death and destruction and devastation, and feeling a surge of red-hot fury upon seeing the scenes of celebration in some parts of the Middle East.

I remember being back at my desk the next day, thinking that it felt unseemly and pointless and somehow disrespectful to the dead to be back at work, like it was just another workday when everyone knew it wasn’t.

I remember feeling proud and encouraged when, days later, I looked up and saw a commercial plane back in the air for the first time in what seemed like forever.

I remember, even though I didn’t live in New York or Washington and none of my friends or family members were involved on that day 10 years ago, because I am an American and I could have been on those planes, or working in those buildings.

I remember, because the memories of that day are still sharp and open and raw, as harsh and bitter and gritty as the billowing clouds of dust that boiled through the streets of New York City in the instants after the stricken towers collapsed.

I remember, because I still feel chilled and enraged when I think about the innocents who were murdered and the lives that were forever changed on that horrific day when madmen decided to attack our nation.

I remember, because I cannot and will not forget.