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Husband, father, and writer working on a short story project and submitting my novel, The Windsmith, to agents.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Five Years Later

NEW YORK, NY – It was five years ago today when they first appeared in the early morning skies over New York. Three massive, city sized ships, each the shape of a disk. It was like something out of a Hollywood summer blockbuster. And like in those blockbuster’s, people in the city reacted in predictable patterns. Fear, confusion, excitement. The army was called in, and soon the streets of the city were filled with tanks and trucks and men and women in green BDU’s, all shouting and running.

I myself remember being in my office trying to write an article on the Mayor’s latest indiscretion with the local prostitutes, when a co-worker dragged me to the windows to see what was going on. There they were, pushing their way out of the clouds and blocking the sun. They were so big I remember that I couldn’t even see the entirety of the one that was right above us. Just this big, black curve, with the occasional blinking light or protruding piece of equipment.

I remember seeing the military pull up and get situated within minutes of the arrival. I remember thinking at the time that it was a quick response time, but of course, later we learned that the government had been tracking the three ships as soon as they passed Mars orbit. The young soldiers on the street were getting people to go back inside, to clear the streets. It was obvious they weren’t trying to evacuate the city, although they did help ease all the people who were cramming the roads get out of town. I think they were just trying to get people out of their way.

Then came the part that had us all on edge. The waiting. After moving over the city, the just hung there, completely motionless and silent. We began to wonder if they were even manned. Air Force jets could be seen doing flyby’s, but no matter how close they got, nothing could be seen. The waiting lasted for hours, during which time the entire world came to a stop to watch and see what would happen. Stores shut down, schools closed, banks locked their doors and people everywhere looked up to the skies or at their TV monitors, wondering what they wanted, and where their more?

Finally, after hours of quiet, we got the signal. Televisions, radios and even people’s blackberry’s and iPhone’s all started to pick up the signal. Transmissions of greetings and we come in peace. A world wide collective breath was released. Over the next few days, delegations from the UN and the aliens were to meet. We learned their story. A planet killer asteroid had destroyed their world. These three ships held seven million people, the last of their race, called the greck, who had been flying under suspended animation for approximately 100 years until they reached us, their nearest galactic neighbor. They were looking for a new place to live, and they hoped that we would be willing to take them in. Of course, we were. Our governments couldn’t wait to get their hands on their technology, and scientists just wanted to look at the newcomers to our world.

Of course, we all know now that they left their ships after a month. And our world changed. They moved all over the world, and while most of them settled in and around New York, even building their own community upstate, there is practically no country that they are not found now. For the most part, our world is now one large government, in order to fairly parcel out the new technology. Our space program has been given new life. But, we’re not here to discuss these things. We’re here to celebrate the Arrival.

Arrival Day has been a national, indeed a worldwide, holiday since two years after the big event. Today, we celebrate the 5th anniversary of Arrival, and I thought it would be appropriate to interview some eyewitnesses of the big event. I found four individuals that were at the scene that day in New York. We start first with Sergeant Lance Davis, who was part of the soldiers called in to clear out the city. Then, we move onto Mrs. Miranda Hunter, a schoolteacher whose class was interrupted by the arrival. Third up is Father O’Sullivan, a catholic priest who brings us the Church’s view of the events that happened 5 years ago. And finally, we have LaDonna Lawson, CEO and President New York Telegraph, Inc, a cell phone manufacturer whose company has had a big burst of growth thanks to the alien’s arrival.

When I called up the US Army about this article and asked if I could interview a soldier that was at the scene, I expected to get a polished officer, someone that was good at giving just these kinds of interviews. What I got was refreshingly not polished enlisted man, a infantry man who had only been in the military a brief time when the ships appeared in our sky. Sergeant Lance Davis, a muscular African-American man, met me in his dress uniform, but I got the distinct impression that he wasn’t comfortable wearing it. He was a brass tacks, no holds barred kind of guy, who didn’t want to waist time on small talk and got straight into the interview.

“I was only a corporal back then,” he told me. “My unit was getting ready to ship out to the Middle East. I was excited. Hell, it was why I had joined the Army in the first place, to see some action. I thought it was all some big action flick. I guess I was stupid back then. We were based in Fort Drum, and all I kept thinking this would be the last time I saw the place. Last breakfast in that chow hall. Instead, we got an emergency alert. At this point, they hadn’t actually arrived yet, so none of us had any clue what was going on.”

“We reported on the parade ground, where we received our orders. We were moving out in 2 hours. We were heading to New York City. Apparently, something big was happening, or would be happening, it wasn’t real clear. All I knew was that I had to hurry and finish packing, grab my gear and report with the rest of my battalion to the planes that would bring into the Big Apple. I’d never seen anything this big happen this fast before. There was word spreading through the troops that we had been invaded. Enemy troops had landed in New York itself, and we were heading there to hold them back.”

“To be honest?” he said, taking a pause to have some orange juice. “I think I’d rather it had been the Arabs who landed that day. It would have been easier to understand. On the way there, we got a further briefing, detailing exactly what was going on and what our jobs were to be. We were told that there were three city sized alien space ships were on their way to Earth, and that they would arrive in New York within the hour. At first, we all laughed. Then, they showed us the pictures from the satellite tracking.”

“I’ll tell you, it all felt like something out of a sci-fi movie. But, the brass acted as if it were real, so that meant, no matter how stupid it all sounded to me, I had to treat it as real too. We landed, exited the plains, and got our first real glimpse of the ships. When I first saw them, I stopped dead in my tracks, mouth gaping open, and said something I can’t repeat to your readers. Even the officers were gaping at the sky. Finally, our LT shook his head and got us moving again.”

“Our immediate job was to clear the city streets. It was too late for a full evacuation, so it was decided that the best bet was to keep people inside. This isn’t as easy as it sounded. The NYPD had already started this process, but by the time they were in gear, the ships were visible already, and people were rushing out of the city on their own. My unit joined up with the National Guard unit that was already there, and became glorified traffic cops. Except that when the guy directing traffic has an M-16 rifle in his arms, you tend to listen to him. It took two hours to unblock the log jam, but we managed to either get people to go back to their homes, or get them out of the city.”

“After that, it was just like the rest of the country. We waited. We marched through the city streets, keeping things clear as much as we could, bringing food to people trapped in office buildings and moving school kids to be back with their parents. But, mostly, it was long periods of standing there, ‘on watch,’ just staring at the sky. I remember it being quiet. I’d been to NYC a few times before, and it was always noisy, no matter the time. But then, it was quiet. It was almost like the city had been abandoned. We had all held our breath, and were waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

“I’ll tell you what the worst part was, and it’s something that people hardly ever talk about regarding Arrival. It started raining. It came down pretty hard, and my unit was one of the ones on the ground. We didn’t get a Duce-and-a-Half, or get assigned to one of the stations at the city. Nope, we mostly stood guard, watching to make sure that there was no one on the streets of our particular slice of the city. So, we stood out there in the pouring rain. We heard later that the rain was a direct result of ‘atmospheric dislocation’ caused by the space ships, but that didn’t make it any more pleasant. It sucked.”

“The good news about that was that it only lasted about an hour. Poured down like you wouldn’t believe during that hour, but then it was done, like it never happened. All this time we spent there, waiting, watching, looking up at the sky, I only had one thought on my mind. Come on, someone do something! By the time the rain ended, I just wanted something to happen. Anything. An attack, a message, giant robots, whatever. Then, our communications equipment squawked to life. And you know this part. The Message. It was a recording, in several languages, espousing peace and a desire for peaceful talks. I heard at least three languages I recognized, including English, of course, and several I never heard before.”

“I remember thinking at the time that he voice sounded… recorded. Fake, somehow. And, of course, later we found out it was. The aliens decided it would be friendlier if the message came from our own voices. Then was the exciting part. A delegate from the aliens was going to land in Central Park, and meet with representatives from the UN. My unit didn’t get to go, though, so I wasn’t one of the first to see them. We stayed behind, and continued with keeping people out of the streets. It was decided that it would be best until we could verify their intentions before letting people swarm them.”

And no doubt a good idea, because as a report, I know that I would have. I thanked the Sergeant for his time, and the story. He grunted and told me to thank the top brass. He just reported where ordered.

Next, I met with Mrs. Miranda Hunter, a grade school teacher from Lincoln Elementary. I drove out to her school in the middle of the after noon, when all the children were playing. I was not surprised to see a mixture of human and alien children there. Lincoln was one of the first schools to integrate the two cultures, and even hired the first greck teacher in the country, who now taught math to 5th graders.

We met in her classroom. It was exactly what you expected from a 2nd grade class room, with chalkboard, books on the shelf, papers on the wall and a few projects the kids had made themselves hanging from the ceiling. Mrs. Hunter was a in her early 40’s, with salt and pepper hair that she wore cut short just under her ears. We had a few minutes of conversation before getting into the heart of the interview, and I found that she was a pleasant woman, but also one that you would not want angry at you. It was difficult to not think of her as a mother figure, even though she was only slightly older than I am.

“School had just started when they arrived. It was supposed to be a sunny day, and I was looking forward to that, but for some reason, it was dark that day. Clouds had rolled in, and I don’t just mean fluffy cotton clouds, I mean some heavy-duty storm clouds, dark and angry looking. Only, there wasn’t any rain coming from it. I was frustrated, because it looked like my sunny day was about to be ruined. Little did I know how right I was.”

“It was Jeremy who noticed them first,” she said, pointing to one of the desks that was located next to the windows. “He’s a bit of a day dreamer, and is usually looking out the window. So, when he raised his hand to ask a question, I went right to him, because he never asks questions.”

“What did he say?” I asked her.

“He asked why there was a city in the clouds. When I asked him what city he was talking about, he pointed out the window. I didn’t even have to walk to the window to see part of the ship. After Jeremy pointed it out, everyone in the class rushed to the windows to look. It was massive, and took up the whole sky. Big and black and circular, there were blinking lights and what looked like towers on the underside. I mean, it had to be the underside, right? That was all we could see. So, from our point of view, it not only looked like Jeremy’s city in the clouds, it was an upside down city.”

“At first, I couldn’t comprehend what it was I was seeing. Then, an announcement came over the loudspeaker. It was the principle, Leonard. He was letting us know that the school had just been contacted by the police, and that we were to begin lock down procedures. He would be coming by to each class room to talk to each teacher.”

I asked her what lockdown was.

“Well, after 9/11, most of the schools in the country came up with emergency procedures to protect the children. They were called lockdown, because basically that’s what we did to the school. We would keep the children in the classes, and call their parents to inform them that we were protecting their kids and that the school was locked down until further notice.”

“It was hard to believe that the thing hanging in the sky was real, but the lockdown order form Leonard solidified it for me. The children all looked at me with fear in their eyes. I told them not to worry, I’m sure it’s just a drill. I followed lockdown procedure and closed down the class, and then had every re-take their seats. I didn’t think that returning to the lesion we never really started would be a good idea, so I decided that we should turn on the TV and find out what was happening.”

“That’s when we learned that these were, indeed, alien space ships that had arrived mere moments ago. The TV news showed footage of the Army clearing out the streets and the traffic clogged roads as people tried to escape. After about a minute of that, I shut the TV off. Several of the children had questions, but I put them off as I saw Leonard at the door. He gave me the list of parents for my classroom and their phone numbers, not that I needed it. I always kept a copy. He also told me that the military had posted guards around the school.”

“I called the parents. I told them in no uncertain terms that we had shut down the school. That we were protecting their children, and that part of how we were doing that was by not letting anyone in or out of the school grounds. I told them that we had military guards to help keep their children out of harms way. All the while, I was wondering what it was we though we were protecting them from. Anything that big that could just float into the sky was not going to be stopped by lockdown.”

“Then we waited. Eventually, more soldiers appeared, with pizza and sandwiches, and we fed all the kids. After a few hours, they told us that they were taking all the kids and returning them with their parents and families. I told the soldiers that came to my room that I wasn’t going to let a single child go until I had spoken with their parents on the phone to make sure it was okay. One by one, most of my kids left. The few that stayed with me watched out the windows, or sat at their desks. I had everyone left draw a picture of the ships when the message broadcast itself all over the place. It hit my phone, and I quickly turned on the TV so the kids could watch it as well. It was history in the making, and I realized at that point that some day, I would be teaching this day to other students. And now I am, to a class that includes 4 children that were born on board those ships.”

At that point, lunchtime was over, and the children started returning to the classroom. I thanked Mrs. Hunter for he time and returned to my office. I left Lincoln Elementary with a different perspective on things. If I had ever had a child, I would want someone like Mrs. Hunter to be watching over it.

Next up was a visit to the Catholic Church. Father Thomas O’Sullivan was a portly man in his early fifties. Not fat by any means, but not in shape either. He had a big, warm smile to greet me when we met at the door. I suppose at this point I should come clean, and let you know that Father O’Sullivan and I have known each other for years now. He’s been my contact at the Church for when I need a quote from a priest, or for interest pieces like this one. This is the first time I’ve used his name, though, and it was done at this request.

We sat in his little office behind the otherwise dominating large church where he preached to his parish. It was a comfortable office, filled with things he had collected as gifts over the years. Crosses of all make and model, a hand-carved mask from a village in Africa he once visited, a paper-machae globe made by a 4th grade class to thank him for helping them raise money for a Disneyland trip. We both sat in comfortable chairs, and he choose one not behind his desk to make this a meeting on more even footing. We drank tea he served us while we talked.

“I supposed you’re not here for the official position of the Church on Arrival,” he said with a laugh. “That’s a position well known to all by now. We’ve accepted our brother’s from space, and announced to the world that greck have souls and are children of God just like we are. No, you want to know my personal story of where I was and what happened to me at Arrival.”

I nodded for him to continue.

“Well, before we begin, I must confess something to you that I’ve never told anyone before. I’m a huge sci-fi geek.” A smile crossed his face, and I had to laugh. I had never heard this from him before, and was intrigued. “Ever since I was a child, the only thing besides a priest I wanted to be was an astronaut. I wanted to be Captain Kirk, exploring the galaxy and finding new life forms, children of God out in the stars.”

“So, when, that morning five years ago, while I was sweeping the steps of the church, I saw t he ships appear in the morning sky, breaking through the clouds, I was a ten year old boy again. They had come at last. God had answered my most secret prayers. But, I knew what would come next. I didn’t waist a second in preparing, and ran inside to get the younger priests into gear. We cleaned up the church and started making coffee and food for the people that were about to flood the church, seeking answers.”

“And, of course, they came. Hundreds of them. The military showed up pretty quickly as well, and were helping direct people into the church. It was standing room only in a matter of an hour. Many were my regular flock, but many more were people I had never seen before. All were welcome. All wanted to know what was happening, were the ships a sign from God, or a sign of the apocalypse. That was a popular thing back then, to see signs of the End Times in everything.”

“After passing out coffee and toast out to everyone, I got up on the pulpit to deliver a speech. I notified everyone that this was not a sign of the End Times. It was, however, a message from God. It was God telling us that we were no longer alone in the universe. Our friends, nay, our brothers and sisters from the stars were coming to welcome us into the bigger family of God. This was a momentous occasion, a turning point in the history of not just our world, but of two worlds. A moment we would tell our children and grandchildren about.”

“It seemed to help calm everyone down, and several people seemed to believe me, but there was still a lot of people in fear. We had been in the church, with a military guard out front, for hours and there was nothing happening. We had the radio hooked up to the speakers so we could all hear the latest on the events. But the big question everyone had was ‘what were they waiting for? War or peace, shouldn’t they have done something by now?’”

“Of course, just when the tensions were threatening to bring people to the verge of madness, we got the message. It broke out over the speakers, interrupting the news announcer. They were messages of peace and co-existence. A great cheer broke out among the people in the church. People started dancing and hugging. Even the soldiers outside joined in. It was truly a momentous day.”

I thanked the Father for his time and the interview, and stayed around after for some more private conversation. I always enjoy my time with Father O’Sullivan. Of all the people I have talked to about their experiences regarding the Arrival over the years, his was perhaps the most hopeful, the most inspiring. He was never afraid of our visitors from the beginning; his faiths guiding him on how to not only greet the strangers to our world, but how to guide his flock in doing the same. Truly, he is an inspiration to me.

My final visit on this whirlwind tour of interviews was the tower office of New York Telegraph, Inc. It wasn’t quite the dominating presence of places like Trump Towers or the offices of the bigger banks in the word, but the fact that this company took the top four floors of this particular sky scrapper was still pretty intimidating, even for me.

LaDonna Lawson was waiting for me in one of the conference rooms, sitting with her laptop open and typing away at the end of a long square table. She motioned for me to sit at one of the chairs next to her, which still kept her at the head of the table. I expected nothing less from the CEO of the fastest growing telecommunications company in the country. She greeted me with a friendly smile and shake of the hand, and then pressed a button on the speaker phone and had her assistant bring coffee and some scones for us to nibble on during the interview. I thanked her for her time.

“It’s no problem, really,” she said. “I love talking to the media about the greck. They’ve been a huge boon to my company, and have advanced telecommunications a hundred years ahead in a matter of a month’s time. I’ve worked with them as employees and friends and have even spent money on greck advocacy groups, making sure they get all the fair treatment as citizens of this nation. It’s a small matter for me to rearrange my schedule to meet with you here now.”

“So, let me get right to the story, shall I?” she said, and I nodded. “As you know, five years ago, my company was working on the latest generation of smart phones. We had just signed a contract with Google to design a new Droid phone, something that could not only access the internet, but would have accessories like Microsoft Office designed for use on the phone, with Voice Recognition Software for ease of use. Advanced stuff at the time.”

“I was in early, because I had a meeting that day with my main programmers, and wanted to get ready and get in some other work done before then. My office back then still had a nice large corner window. I therefore had a fantastic view of the large, black discs breaking through the clouds. They were like huge records or tea saucers. I instantly thought of the old 50’s sci-fi movies my husband loves to watch.”

“I called my assistant to ask her if she knew what was going on, but she hadn’t seen anything yet. She came into my office, looked out the window and shrieked in fear. He quickly went to the break room and turned on the TV I had bought to boost employee morale a few months ago. The news reports were a little confusing at first. No one was sure if they were truly alien space ships, something launched from our own government, or an attack by a previously unknown enemy. All anyone knew was that something momentous was happening.”

“I’ll tell you what I thought, looking at that great, floating disk in the sky. The technology to make something that large just float there in one spot was amazing. And I wanted to get my hands on it. Imagine what they must have for communications. I bet they could send real time messages from the Earth to the Moon, or even Mars. I was drooling thinking about what they could do. I only hoped that they weren’t hostile, though I had a hard time believing that they were. I mean, they traveled how many millions of light years to get here? If they were hostile, why not just attack right away, why wait hours before contacting us?”

“When the message arrived, and it took over every form of communication around, including my own blackberry and my assistant’s iPhone, I knew that I needed to get rights to that technology. This would revolutionize the world in ways no one had ever dreamed off. As soon as the message ended, I called some friends of mine, contacts in the UN that I had done business with in the past, including one old school mate of mine from MIT. I managed to wheel a deal pretty quickly that had me included in the Technological Investigations team the UN was forming. And here we are now, five years later, and my company still is the only ones that have turned greck technology into something useful by humans, the new Google Holo-Droid, a hand held 3D Holographic video phone.”

And with that, she was done. I knew well the Holo-Droid, it was the phone I was carrying in my pocket during that meeting. Her quick thinking managed to land LaDonna Lawson on tech blogs and magazines all over the world, and propelled Google to the top of the smart phone market, creating the first phone to truly beat the iPhone. Of course, we all know that Apple has fought back, with the iGram, it’s own version of the holographic video phone, but the Holo-Droid has held solid at number one for two years now.

And with that, I bring my little excursion of the past to a close. There are as many different views of the Arrival as there are people in this country. I once spoke to a college student that stated he was so afraid that the aliens were here to eat everyone that he hid in the basement of his dorm for three days before coming up to see what had happened. I saw another that had lost complete faith in his religion, that the alien’s very existence belied everything he believed. And still other’s that were excited that the mother ship had finally come home.

So, I end now with these closing words. Five years ago, our world, our very conception of the universe itself, changed. Though we are still not a unified world under a single government, the world is now united in a way that it never was in the past. A truly international space program is in existence now, and a permanent base on the moon now exists, where we plan on sending ships to Mars. Aliens walk among us, and while many are still unhappy about their arrival, they have integrated themselves into our societies and minds fully, even having their own Saturday Morning cartoons about cultural heroes. The world changed that day. And I wonder, how will it continue to change in the days to come?

-Sandra Cameron, staff writer, UN World News Daily

The End

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