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Grafton grad goes to Roswell

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  • Richard D. Hendricks
    Link: Ozaukee-Washington Daily News Grafton grad has an out-of-this-world job: in notorious UFO capital ... By LISA
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2003
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      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



      I’ll 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
      extraterrestrial bodies.

      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 city’s 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 I’ve learned here is that there’s 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; it’s 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. It’s hard, when you’re 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 doesn’t 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 it’s 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
      hadn’t changed at all, I’ve 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
      Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

      Again, Roswell is the last place I thought I’d ever end up, but it was a
      great opportunity, one that I’m glad I didn’t pass up.

      "The truth is out there," they say. I still haven’t 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, I’ll 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 it’s 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.
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