UFO or no? Tanya's left in the dark
Just tell me one thing, Tanya Matarwe asked, a hint of tears in her eyes. Do you think I'm sane? Sure, I told her. This kind of thing probably happens more often than you think.
She thanked me profusely and shook my hand.
Here's her story. and the reason she wanted reassurance.
Tanya, a 25-year-old travel agent. was driving home to Carlsbad from a friend's house in San Marcos at 12:45 a.m. Friday. They'd been bowling and talking; her father expected her home on time. and she was late.
Tired but still alert, Tanya was heading south in her Blue Jetta on Rancho Santa Fe Road, not too far west of Lake San Marcos, when she saw the light, so bright that she thought it must be the searchlight of a police helicopter.
The car in front of her slammed on its brakes. She did the same, barely avoiding an accident. Both Tanya and the other driver got out, as did a few motorists in the northbound lane.
To the east, it was something like, staring into a 200 watt light bulb, Tanya said. She couldn't judge the dimensions of the light, slthough when pressed, she believes it was larger than the sun and much closer. It was yellowish and static. It stayed there for two minutes. then shot up and was gone.
There had been lightning during the evening, but this was much different, she said. The sky was cloudy, but dry.
She swapped phone numbers with the other driver, a guy named John from Del Mar, and hurried home.
Less than a mile from her house, as she looked out over La Costa, she thought she saw it again, shining brightly and then exploding up into space. It appeared cusp-like, with perhaps four bright lights.
She woke her father, talked to him until 4 a.rn., dragged him out front to look. Nothing.
The next morning, John called, wondering what they should do or who they could talk to. Later, Tanya tried to call him back. Sorry, she was told, no one here by that name. Be it an innocent mistake or something else. the call bothered her almost as much as the eerie midnight encounter.
Police in Carlsbad and San Marcos were aware of nothing that resembled her account. Other possibilities -some kind of aircraft, for instance -also went nowhere.
The best natural explanation came from the National Weather Service, which reported an unusual light show that evening. The display included a variety of cloud-to-cloud, unusually brilliant lightning that passed through highly charged ice crystals and could remain luminous for 30 seconds.
Forecaster Steve Goldstein said the meteorologist on duty observed instances of that phenomenon in North County that evening.
Perhaps from the right angle, on a cloudy evening under circumstances in which no one could be expected to keep track of time.
Then again, members of Orion, an amateur San Diego group that runs a 24-hour UFO hotline, were intrigued by the story.
Gary Davidson, a North County field investigator for Orion, said that with lightning there could be any number of possibilities. Other UFO researchers weren't persuaded by lightning as an answer but couldn't speculate much further, except to say that sightings like this -of bright, unexplained lights -aren't rare.
Which brings us back to Tanya.
Once, she'd assumed that people who saw things like this were kooks. Now she finds herself taking people to the site, pointing to where it happened, wondering what they're thinking, trying to describe it.
Whatever it was.