by Jerry Washington
In the following excerpt from Jerry Washington’s upcoming book “Evacuation Road,” he tells of a couple of UFO sightings he had during the great “Flap” year of 1973, in his hometown of Oak Ridge, Tennessee (the “Manhattan Project”). A city that along with Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Hanford, Washington, served as the birthplace of the atomic bomb. It begins with Jerry and his Norwegian girlfriend Astrid, steaming up the windows of his car while parked in a graveyard bordering the restricted (government) zone. Oblivious to anything but each other at the time, that was just about to change. As Jerry tells it:
"To Have or Have Not"
Try as I might, it was hard for me to ignore the amber-colored, oval-shaped object that had suddenly intruded upon our awareness, gliding silently through the sky above the adjoining pastureland. We watched it as it scooted from left-to-right across our field of vision, then disappeared behind the neighboring ridge. Then, after only a few moments, the object reappeared, moving in the opposite direction.
Astrid, who was very much her father’s daughter when it came to such matters, dismissed the sighting as irrelevant despite its high-strangeness factor. While I was much more intrigued by it, undoubtedly due to the close encounter of the extreme kind I’d had two years earlier. The amber light she and I were looking at clearly had no business being there. The skies over Oak Ridge were (and still are) highly restricted and very closely monitored. A prudent policy, I’d say, considering…
That’s how brother James, and my buddy Greg and I felt as we made a speedy exit out of town one afternoon, just as Melvin, a local boy of the African-American persuasion, was threatening to crash the 727 he’d just hijacked into the Y-12 Nuclear Facility, otherwise known as the “bomb factory.” Demanding to be flown to Cuba, Melvin had apparently been in contact with Fidel Castro who had helped him hatch the hijack plot. The plan was for “Nervous Melvin” to commandeer the plane, demand a million dollars ransom, and force the pilot to return to McGhee-Tyson airport in Knoxville, where Melvin was to collect the money. Then he’d fly to Cuba where Fidel would welcome him as a hero of the Revolution.
Melvin swung into action as soon as the plane took off on its regular route. Brandishing a pistol, he immediately secured the cockpit. The co-pilot thought he was bluffing, though, and refused to play along. So Melvin shot him in the leg to convince him otherwise. It worked, and the pilot was soon on the radio to the Knoxville tower relaying Melvin’s list of demands to the authorities. The pilot also began to fly in circles over the “bomb factory” as instructed. Whenever the negotiations would bog down, Melvin would renew his threat to crash the plane into the facility.
Headed for Knoxville to party, the three of us couldn’t help but feel a little safer the further we ventured from home. But we were only going twenty-five miles, in fact, which would have made scant difference had Melvin actually followed through on his threat.
Along the way, we kept our A.M. dial tuned to the local, black radio station because it was the only one airing a play-by-play account of the drama. And every now and then, in his velvety smooth, ultra-hip disc jockey voice, the radio announcer would express his solidarity with "Brotha Melvin," while fielding telephone calls doing the same. I wonder if Melvin’s supporters were hip to the fact that a nuclear chain-reaction triggered by the idiot would have been an equal opportunity apocalypse?
Fortunately, it never came to that. Melvin got his money and a one-way ticket to Cuba, and East Tennessee got a reprieve.
Upon his arrival in Cuba, our hometown boy was in for a rude surprise. Instead of being hailed as a hero, Castro confiscated the money and tossed Melvin’s ebony ass into a six-by-six-by-six prison cell. And there he would remain until the Mariel boatlift of 1980, when Fidel would send him home and into the waiting arms of the Feds, who locked him up and threw away the key. “Viva la libertad!”
Obviously, a “no-fly” zone over Oak Ridge wasn’t going to keep out every undesirable. Nor did it deter those pesky, amber-colored ovals, of which I observed a number that fall. It also didn’t stop the object my friend Greg spotted one night, as he went from being a “have-not” to a “have” as far as a UFO sighting was concerned.
It was late night, around 1:00 a.m. in the morning, and James and I were still up toying with the hapless katydid we’d snatched off the top of my air-conditioning unit, after putting up with the creature’s annoying cadences for several hours. Playing God, we were toying with our prey, contemplating its fate.
Suddenly, in the midst of this conceit, there came a loud, insistent pounding on the window that jolted James and I right out of our skins. Greg had shown up and was imploring us to get our butts outside to see something strange in the sky.
Outside, I found Greg in the front yard gesturing towards the horizon while mumbling something about never doubting me again. Anxious to see what had him so excited, I focused my gaze in the direction he was pointing to but all I could see was a star. A bright, rather colorful star perhaps, but a star nonetheless.
Earlier that evening, Greg had been parked up at one of the scenic overlooks that afford the citizens of Oak Ridge a panoramic view of the Atomic City, when he spotted a UFO hovering over K-25, the Uranium Enrichment Facility. Rushing home immediately to pick up his brother Jeff, the two of them then made a beeline for my place (I was Mr. Flying Saucer, after all).
He knew I’d had a close encounter, the truth of which I was certainly not shy about spreading. A typical scenario: A bunch of us delinquent types would pile into the deluxe motor-home my stepmother had so thoughtfully parked in our backyard, a joint or some liquid refreshment would get passed around, then, with my captive audience suitably primed, I’d launch into my “we are not alone” sermonette. The funny thing is, I’d always assumed that everybody took me at my word, especially Greg. We’d been best friends for years and I trusted him above all others to give me the benefit of the doubt. But as his remarks clearly indicated, this was not the case. Turns out he wanted to believe, but he was the very essence of a “have-not.”
Strange objects flying over the ridgeline in the Atomic City.
This time the tables were turned. While Greg kept insisting that we were observing the same object he’d spotted from the overlook, I was skeptical. It didn’t fit his original description of that object (multiple lights, enormous size) and it was stationary, whereas the earlier one was seen both hovering and ascending. I didn’t doubt for a second that he’d actually sighted a UFO over K-25. With Oak Ridge’s long and storied history of UFO “surveillance,” what else was new? Instead, I figured he’d inadvertently lost sight of the original object somewhere between his house and mine. And so, after several valiant hours of trying to convince me that they were one and the same, Greg (and James) reluctantly gave up and headed indoors. And that’s when it happened. As his brother Jeff and I prepared to follow suit, one of those pesky, amber-colored ovals suddenly appeared in the eastern sky.
After watching it glide silently across the horizon for a few moments, Jeff, a professional diver by trade and a cynical son-of-a-gun not usually given to genuflection, suddenly dropped to his knees and starting praying like crazy for a quick deliverance. “Help me Jesus,” he chanted repeatedly as I hollered for the other guys to get their asses back outside. Spilling out of the doors like “johns” during a cathouse raid, Greg and James arrived in time to see the object stop dead in its tracks, then zip in an instant, back a quarter arc across the sky. Aligning itself up with the so-called star, the two objects appeared to effect some kind of energy transference for a brief time. Indeed, it put on quite a show for us as we watched in slack-jawed amazement. I also couldn’t shake the impression that the object was toying with us, much as James and I were “toying” with the katydid. Finally, as the object resumed its trek, we were suddenly enveloped in a warm and gentle wind, on what had been a still night up until then.
By the way, this sighting occurred in October of 1973, at the height of the so-called “flap” or wave, when UFOs were seen all over the eastern half of the United States.
C. 1998 by Jerry Washington. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No portion of this work can be reproduced without permission of the author.
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