[This story appeared in the Fredericksburg, Virginia, Free Lance-Star newspaper on April 7, 1998, reporting eyewitness accounts of an event that took place on Friday, April 3. CNI News thanks Kenny Young of T.A.S.K. (firstname.lastname@example.org) for sending this text.]
It wasn't a bird. It wasn't a plane. And it wasn't Superman. But just what was that flash of Kryptonite green that zipped across the Fredericksburg area sky last Friday?
"I believe it was a UFO," said Robert Tolen of Spotsylvania County. "I don't care what anyone says."
Mike Todaro of Stafford County wouldn't go quite that far, but he would say, "It was one of the weirdest things I've ever seen."
They weren't the only ones who saw it. Four Fredericksburg police officers did, too, said police spokesman Jim Shelhorse.
Not everyone was eager to talk about it.
"Are you quoting me on this?" Michael Clark wanted to know, before learning there were plenty of others who saw what he saw about 6:30 p.m. Friday.
All the descriptions were the same-97a small, neon green, egg-shaped object that raced across thesky.
Tolen spotted it from a pay phone outside Eubank's Amoco on Princess Anne Street. Todaro was on a baseball field at Falmouth Elementary School. Clark was at Maury Field in downtown Fredericksburg. And the officers were in the parking lot behind police headquarters.
Todaro was standing next to another man when the object whizzed by. "Did you see that?" the man said.
"If someone else didn't see it, I would have never told anyone about it. Never. Never," Todaro said. "It wasn't like a military thing. It wasn't that big."
Clark was setting up for the Pear Blossom Festival when he saw it. He, like the others, said it was hard to describe the size.
"Was it bigger than a breadbox? Yes. Was it smaller than a football field?
Everyone said it was traveling horizontally, less than 1,000 feet in the air. It didn't have lights or a tail, as an airplane or rocket would, they said.
Tolen called police as soon as he saw it.
"I'm telling the cops, I am not on drugs,'" he said.
At that point, he'd already alarmed several non-believers. As soon as he saw the strange green flying object, he said, he started hollering for the people near him to look into the sky.
"They thought I was out of my damn mind."
Charles Tolbert, associate chairman of the Astronomy Department at the University of Virginia, said he's sure it was something.
"It was a UFO? No question about that," he said. "It was something in the sky they couldn't identify. The problem is when they say that they mean an alien spaceship. If that's the case, it wouldn't be an unidentified flying object."
He said the sighting could have something to do with military aviation or scientific study using rockets. There are numerous military bases east of the Fredericksburg area, including Wallops Island, a rocket testing facility near Chincoteague. A spokeswoman there said there was no testing Friday night that would have produced what area residents saw.
A scientist for the past 30 years, Tolbert said he has been able to identify strange sightings he's witnessed in the Earth's atmosphere. "I did see a UFO. Luckily, I identified it before I got too excited about it," he recalled. What he saw turned out to be landing lights on a plane.
So does he think there are extraterrestrials hereabouts?
"I am a kook? No," he said. "There are other life forces in the universe? I suspect there are, but I would be shocked to my shoes if they were here in metal devices flying around our skies.
"Just because something remains unexplained, doesn't mean they're alien beings."
Tell it to Tolen.
"I'm an X-Files fan," he said. "I believe it is out there. I believe this was a true sighting."
[Staff reporter Jim Toler contributed to this report.]
[The following editorial comment appeared in the 'Letters To The Editor' section of the The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Letters to the editor
Students in Maryland saw UFO hovering overhead
To the Editor:
The UFO story of April 7 ("Friday flash in sky caught locals' eyes") has forced me to eat crow.
I teach ninth-graders in St. Mary's County, Md. My students couldn't wait to tell me about the UFO they saw on April 3. They described essentially the same thing as the Fredericksburg witnesses, only they said it was blue. And they claimed it hovered briefly over their neighborhood, then flashed away without a sound. "Nothing can accelerate like that," they insisted.
I tried to dissuade them from the notion that little green men were landing. I reminded them that they have the Pax River naval base in the county, and Dahlgren to the west. They wouldn't have any of it. They were convinced that this thing was from out of this world.
Now I've got to read them The Free Lance-Star article and apologize for doubting them. They're going to love this.
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