A Changing Roswell — what was “The Incident’s” purpose?


Downtown Roswell. Photo by Phyllis Eileen Banks.
Downtown Roswell.

Nestled in a valley that is the only oasis for 75 to 100 miles in the desert prairie of New Mexico, Roswell is a bustling community of about 50,000 people.  During the famed UFO Festival it grows to about 60,000 to 70,000.  Its main street, appropriately  named "Main Street," becomes U.S. Highway 285 heading north and south.  Its second main street (named what else?  "Second Street") becomes U.S. Highway 70, leading east and west.  The two highways intersect smack-dab in the middle of town so you can truly "get there from here."  According to the UFO experts, you can touch down at Roswell, even if you are from a little further out, say Alpha Centauri for instance.

The stars shine like diamond s in our beautiful night skies.  In the Southwest, we are used to prairie dogs and coyotes on our sagebrush covered plains, but in Roswell, we also host other creatures.

In the 1940s, Roswell was a sleepy little village dependant upon local farmers and the Roswell Air Field for its livelihood.  In 1947, a stir about a "flying saucer" crashing in a nearby field attracted some attention, but interest quickly died down as people returned to the task of making a living.  This was right after the Second World War, and the community’s interest was more in welcoming home their soldiers returning from the war and trying to rebuild families than it was in "little green men."  So the locals didn’t speak much about it after the hype wore off.  I grew up here and don’t remember hearing anything at all about "The Incident" until the late 1970s when the "Cover Up" conspiracy theory became world news.

Until the 1980s, most people that didn’t live in New Mexico didn’t even realize that the state was a part of America.

Today, The Roswell Incident has put us on the map.  Except for a few uninformed U.S. Congressmen who still insist that you must have a visa to visit New Mexico and a few other people who don’t read newspapers, watch TV or go to movies, everyone knows about Roswell, the Mecca of UFO enthusiasts.

Why all the hull-a-ba-loo all of a sudden?  Only in the last few years has the news focused so strongly on Roswell.

Why now?  Because only recently has the public taken any of the worldwide UFO reports seriously.  Because Roswell does have a place in history, and now we can prove it.  Because the UFO Festival held each year on July 4th brings visitors from around the globe, and all year round visitors come from everywhere to take in the sights and soak up the culture of our unique city.  But mostly, just because we can.

But what of the people who live here?  Are we all kooks?  Do we keep little green men in our basements?  Some of our citizens are fervently dedicated to the search for the truth, a few are a little far out (ok, a bit kooky) but most of us take it all with a grain of salt and just have a good time.

Donald R. Burleson, PH.D., Director of Research for The International UFO Museum and Research Center, says that all of the people involved in the actual research and updating of the Center are educated, serious people who require facts before they will say something is true.  But what kind of people are they?  Burleson says that most are an eclectic mix of spiritual, metaphysical and scientific minds working together to solve a mystery.  Most of these researchers are highly educated and have backgrounds in science or related fields.

But really now, is everyone who is serious about UFOs a solid upstanding citizen with not a wacko among them?  Of course Roswell gets its share of less questionable stories about abduction, sightings and so on, but the experts quickly weed out the improbable from the possible.

As an example Burleson tells a humorous story of a gentleman who wandered into the UFO Museum claiming he had an alien implant in his head, behind his ear.  Burleson asked the man if he had x-rays of the object.  He answered, yes he did, but they were kept hidden in a safety deposit box.  When asked to produce the "proof," the alleged abductee left in a hurry and was never seen or heard from by the people at the museum again.

Since he didn’t return, we can only assume:
A.  He was abducted again.
B.  He was telling a not quite true story.
C.  He got lost on the vast wasteland of the fourteen blocks of our Main Street and couldn’t find his way back to the museum which is marked by a sign on every corner.
D.  He forgot where he kept the key to the safety deposit box.

As for the citizens who live here who claim to have had close encounters of any kind, I have personally only spoken to two or three who say they have sighted a UFO.  As for that, I must say these people are respected and tell a very believable tale.  Who am I to say they didn’t actually see alien spacecraft.  After all, thousands of people sighted such wonders just recently in Mexico (the country, not the state) and Arizona.

And no, I do not keep even one single alien locked up in my basement.

Because of the possibilities of research on the subject, some people have actually moved to Roswell simply because of the research going on here.  They do not make up a large percentage of the population, probably less than one percent, but they are here.  And of course, year round, many researchers, enthusiasts, and other interested parties visit our fair city because of what happened here that stormy summer night over fifty years ago.

Roswell has grown and prospered in the last couple of decades, and a large part of that prosperity is due to the widespread interest in the subject of UFOs.  The marketing aspect cannot be denied.  Artists and craftspeople have discovered new avenues to explore in the production of souvenirs.  The variety is astounding.  Merchants’ wares include alien shaped lollipops, tee-shirts, alien dolls, special magazines and books, glow in the dark jewelry and everything else an imaginative mind can come up with.

Yes, my home town has grown up right along with me, but she has aged better. My "mild mannered reporter’s" face has acquired more than a few "character lines," while Roswell’s face has taken on a new, youthful look, a special millennium brightness.  Her personality sparkles with the flavor of Spicy, Old World Chili peppers and exciting, modern, steaming espresso in silver cups.  There is nothing mild about Roswell.  She sizzles with excitement everyday.

On any given day, you may witness Unidentified Flying Objects streaking across our clear, night skies, but during Festival time, you will see the pilots and passengers of these craft striding down Main Street in their full glory.

Last year, during Festival time, I noticed that wherever I looked, people were smiling and laughing.  Total strangers engaged in animated, intelligent conversations.  The Roswell mystique is proof positive that everyone loves a mystery.  What did happen here in 1947?  Did extraterrestrial beings crash here?  Did any survive?  Where are they now?  Will they be back?

Well, there are many opinions, and I was too young to know (or remember) anything about that, but I can tell you what happened in Roswell New Mexico in 1999.

A miracle!  That miracle was neighborly love.

Last year, during The UFO Festival, I was walking down Main Street with one of my closest friends.  I was amazed by the blend of cultures, people and ideas that make up this city now.  In the Southwest, we are used to a melding of cultures, but that time, I noticed something remarkable.  Everyone had one goal; to seek the truth and have a good time doing it.  It was as if during that one week, all races, creeds and ideals came to an agreement to agree - to empathize - to unite.  I wondered why we can’t do this all the time.  Here, it isn’t a common enemy that binds us together, as in a war, but rather a common idea.  A notion that we are not alone in the Universe - that there is more - that we are not the all powerful/all important beings we think we are.  Instead, we are all a part of our Creator’s family - whoever we believe that creator to be.

Our changing Roswell has shown us what we should be, that we can be united in our humanity.  If extraterrestrials did come to visit, maybe that was the plan all along.