Grafton grad goes to Roswell
- Link: <http://www.dailynewsol.com/topnews12.htm>
Ozaukee-Washington Daily News
Grafton grad has an out-of-this-world job:
in notorious UFO capital
By LISA RIDGELY -
News Graphic Correspondent June 30, 2003
Ill always remember the way my best friend, Melissa, reacted to the
movie "E.T." She ran up to the screen at the end, crying and begging the
nice alien to stay with all of us here on Earth.
I, however, did not share her sentiments. I was hunched down in my seat,
scared to death. In fact, "E.T" gave me recurring nightmares for a year
after I saw it. My parents recall how I would wake up, petrified, and
convinced that E.T. was outside the windows of our house on Skyline
Drive in Cedarburg.
Another early childhood mistake I made was the frequent watching of
"Unsolved Mysteries." This was where I first saw the familiar version of
what aliens are thought to look like: short, skinny green things with
huge heads and gigantic, almond-shaped black eyes.
Until about 6 months ago, I avoided photos and stories about aliens with
a SARS-like diligence. I even considered wearing a mask.
But all that changed in January when, as a result of an intense
resume-mailing campaign, I received a job offer from a small newspaper
in southeastern New Mexico, the Roswell Daily Record.
Roswell? The world-famous alien city? Is this some sort of cruel joke?
However, I needed a writing job. I needed to get out of chilly
Wisconsin. I needed to accept.
As I made the 1,300-mile cross-country trek in my stuffed-to-the-gills
Pontiac, I had no clue what to expect. The aliens and I did have one
thing in common: our final destination was Roswell.
So just what happened here, anyway?
In the first week of July 1947, something crashed at a sheep ranch
northwest of Roswell. Many locals, and a growing number of others,
contend that it was an unidentified flying object containing four
The military reported it as a downed high-altitude weather balloon. Some
people think it was a top-secret government experiment of Cold War spy
equipment. Other theories abound, but the UFO one has stuck.
"The Roswell Incident," as it has come to be known, has given humans
something to ponder. There have been UFO sightings across the globe, but
this alleged crash opened a whole new can of worms, er, aliens.
Why did the local military base at first report that it had captured a
"flying saucer," only to later report it was only a weather balloon? Why
did a local funeral home receive a call from a military official asking
for four small coffins and body preservation information? Why was the
crash site quarantined by military officials, and why had witnesses
suddenly been silenced?
To say the least, there still are a lot of unanswered questions.
But the citys not waiting for final answers. It has begun to cash in on
its fame and notoriety. The annual UFO Festival here is only 8 years
old, but it attracts tens of thousands of people to Roswell for the hot
4th of July weekend every year. And year-round, visitors come here from
all over the world.
The town has a museum, "The International UFO Museum & Research Center,"
and plenty of shops selling all things alien. The Chamber of Commerce
misses few chances to capitalize on the space angle. Road markers carry
signs warning of alien crossings ahead, and the "o" in "Roswell," its
official publication, is a glowing planet.
But beyond its alien notoriety, Roswell is just a small community in the
middle of the desert and at the end of the Bible Belt.
The most obvious lesson Ive learned here is that theres a lot more to
Roswell than UFOs. In the half-century since the incident, the area,
like anywhere else, has grown and changed.
God remains a very influential figure in local society; its not
uncommon for a politician or government official to pray or openly talk
about his or her religious beliefs during public ceremonies and
meetings. Well over 100 churches, most of them Protestant, serve the
less than 50,000 residents here.
Southeastern New Mexico is also a hotbed for conservatism, quite a
change for me, even after having lived in Ozaukee County.
The social scene in Roswell is drastically different from what I was
used to in Milwaukee and Grafton. Its hard, when youre working up to
60 erratic hours a week, to get involved in clubs and organizations, and
even harder to meet people my age. A lot of kids here get married and/or
pregnant at a young age, and are busy with their own families.
With no big cities for 200 miles in any direction, people get bored in
Roswell. Drugs, gangs and guns contribute to the high crime rate here,
and the poor local economy doesnt help.
Almost half the population is Hispanic, and there are few
African-Americans. It lets me practice my Spanish, at least.
I am reluctant to be a tourist in my own town, and now that I have been
here for a while its hard to think of the UFO incident as anything more
than a local novelty and economy-booster. The more pressing and
important issues, those that affect the everyday life of residents here,
are what really concern me, because knowing them is my job.
The Roswell Daily Record broke the story in 1947, but these days, the
only time UFOs are mentioned in the paper is in stories about tourism
and economic development. Like many other communities, there are those
here who want growth based on tourism, in this case alien-related, and
those who like Roswell the way it is. Ultimately, it is this tension of
opposites that makes the UFO issue newsworthy.
Though my high school choir teacher, Steve Vepraskas, recently told me I
hadnt changed at all, Ive come a long way, geographically and
mentally, since my carefree teenage days in Grafton, and my
intellectually and socially stimulating stint at the University of
Again, Roswell is the last place I thought Id ever end up, but it was a
great opportunity, one that Im glad I didnt pass up.
"The truth is out there," they say. I still havent made up my mind
about the truth. If extraterrestrials prove their existence, it will
truly rock my world.
And if they do decide to come back, Ill have the story of a lifetime.
Want more information about Roswell? Visit these Web sites:
UFO Festival: www.uforoswell.com
International UFO Museum and Research Center: www.iufomrc.com
Roswell Daily Record: www.roswell-record.com
Lisa Ridgely, a 1997 graduate of Grafton High School and of the
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2002, took a job recently as a
reporter with the Roswell Daily Record, a newspaper in Roswell, N.M.
This is her account of what its like to live and work in a community
whose main claim to fame is a controversial and disputed landing there
by aliens in July 1947.