Sunday, November 23, 2014

Police use taser on Key West reporter

 Citizen Reporter Arrested for threatening waitress

Longtime Citizen staff writer Terry Schmida was arrested early Saturday morning on allegations he attempted to run over a restaurant waitress with his car after failing to pay a $9 bill, according to Key West police.

Schmida, 45, of the 3300 block of Duck Avenue, faces charges of felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, misdemeanor DUI and misdemeanor petty theft.

There was no indication in two arrest affidavits released that the waitress was seriously injured, but the reports did note she feared for her life during the incident.

Those reports written by Key West police officers and later released by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office also allege Schmida tried to bite an officer, and he was placed in a restraint chair after being shocked with a Taser and pepper sprayed while being booked into jail.

Officers described the incident this way:

Schmida was at Denny's, 925 Duval St., at 2 a.m. when a waitress reported it appeared he was attempting to walk out without paying a $9.23 bill. He was stopped at the register and "fumbled" through some papers in his pockets before an employee helped him find his driver's license and a $5 bill -- both of which he left inside the restaurant. He then went outside to his car in an effort to find a credit or debit card to cover the rest of the bill. The female employee at the register followed him, writing down his license tag number. The employee reportedly asked Schmida if he should be driving, and he allegedly replied, "No, but I'm going home."

When Schmida couldn't find a credit or debit card in his car, the employee asked him to come back inside and to call a friend to help him pay the bill, or she would be forced to call police. Schmida reportedly refused and stated, "She wouldn't like what happened if she called police."

Another female employee came outside to help when Schmida started his car and attempted to leave. One of the two employees was in front of his car at that time, and Schmida allegedly began "tapping the accelerator and pushing her with his car," reports state.

At one point, the employee was pushed with "enough force that her feet were no longer on the ground and all her body weight was on the hood of the car." She then jumped out of the way "for fear she was going to be run over," reports state.

The other employee outside captured the incident with her cell phone, which police placed into evidence. She also told police it appeared Schmida was "barely able to stand" during the incident.

Schmida was later stopped on Flagler Avenue at Government Road after an officer saw his car and began following him, noting that the car was "straddling the center line," according to reports.

Schmida reportedly stopped in the roadway when the officer activated his blue lights before "accelerating" and then stopping in the parking lane.

While inside his car, Schmida reportedly "searched the owner's manual, cover to cover, several times for no reason and attempted to turn on the car's stereo system while the car's ignition was off."

Officers noted he also allegedly "attempted to roll up and down the car's electric windows, again attempted to manipulate the car's stereo and fumble with the driver side interior door handle and lock," reports state.

Officers also wrote that Schmida appeared unaware that he had left his driver's license at the restaurant.

Schmida appeared unable to focus on stationary objects, had trouble balancing, had bloodshot eyes and smelled of alcohol, reports state.

He told officers he had a medical condition, but that it didn't hinder him from performing field sobriety tests.

"As Schmida performed the exercise, it appeared he mimicked the stance of 'The Karate Kid,'" the officer wrote in reference the 1980s martial arts movie. At one point, Schmida also reportedly asked officers to not arrest him, to let him leave his car at the scene and to drive him home, reports state.

A Denny's manager then arrived with police and identified Schmida as the suspect who left the restaurant without completing payment, reports state.

Schmida was taken to the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island and placed in the DUI room, where he allegedly "began to yell vulgar obscenities toward me and that he was intending on planning on impacting my career in a negative manner," the arresting officer wrote. "Schmida then tried to bite my hand or the implied consent card I was holding."

Schmida reportedly declined to give a breath sample, and when turned over to detention deputies, he physically resisted them to the extent they used a Taser and pepper spray. They also placed him in a restraint chair, reports state.

Schmida remained in Monroe County Detention Center Saturday night under no bail. His first court date was scheduled for Dec. 4 before county Judge Peary Fowler.

Schmida writes about public and private Florida Keys schools as well as the Monroe County School Board and nonprofit organizations.


Monday, October 6, 2014

1950 attack showed Secret Service mettle

Protecting the president requires suicidal dedication

By John L. Guerra

As he lay in his bed in the Blair House on a fall morning in 1950, President Harry Truman awoke to the sound of pistol fire.

When he looked down from his second-story window, he saw a man on the front walk, firing at his body guards in an attempt to gain entry.

Most assassins try to get the president while he's away from his living quarters; not this man - nor his two accomplices who were engaged in a gun battle with two of Truman's other uniformed protectors around the corner.

That violent morning, lost to most memories except to those belonging to present-day Secret Service agents, is a measuring stick of valor that all who protect the president are expected to meet.

The Blair House, across the street from the executive mansion, had no fence blocking the front door, no broad lawn, nothing but steps up to the front door. The Trumans were staying there as the White House underwent renovations.

There is another thread worth mentioning: The two Truman attackers were, in effect, terrorists acting in concert with a violent uprising in Puerto Rico.

A possible attack on the White House by those sympathetic to ISIS is one possibility mentioned by lawmakers who grilled former Secret Service chief Julia Pierson at the Hill hearing two weeks ago.

As in the case of the White House sprinter, the would-be assassins in 1950 took the presidential guards by surprise. In fact, the reaction of the men guarding the sleeping Truman is a model for how such situations ought to be handled. It is a showcase of bravery, fast-thinking and everlasting honor.
Here’s how it went down, according to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Mo., a sort of sister museum to the Little White House Museum in Key West.

The attackersOscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola--were members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, a group that was violently seeking independence for the island nation. Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States, in the eyes of the attackers.

Torresola approached along Pennsylvania Avenue from the west, while Collazo snuck up on Capitol police officer Donald Birdzell, who was standing on the steps of the Blair House. As Truman napped on the second floor, Collazo walked up behind Birdzell and pulled the trigger on his 9mm pistol, but he had forgotten to chamber a round. Instead of a shot, the chilling sound of a hammer slamming shut alerted the guard. As Birdzell turned, Collazo--perhaps panicking--quickly chambered a round and fired, hitting Birdzell in the knee.

Hearing the shot, Secret Service agent Vincent Mroz ran through a basement corridor of the Blair House and exited a street-level door and opened fire, stopping Collazo on the outside steps with a bullet to the chest. Meanwhile, Torresola had approached a guard booth at the west corner and took White House Police officer Leslie Coffelt by surprise, shooting him four times with a 9mm Luger, mortally wounding him. Three of those shots struck Coffelt in the chest and abdomen, and the fourth went through his jacket.

Torresola then shot police officer Joseph Downs in the hip before the officer could draw his weapon. As Downs turned toward the house, Torresola shot him in the back and in the neck, but Downs did not go down. He got into the basement and secured the door, denying Torresola entry into the Blair House.
Torresola then turned to the shoot-out between his partner and the other police officers. Birdzell, already shot in the right knee by Collazo, was shot in the left knee by Torresola. Torresola stood to the left of the Blair House steps to reload. The gunfire had awakened Truman from his nap and that's when the president appeared at the window, just 31 feet away from Torresola. Agents screamed at Truman to get down. He obeyed.

At that same moment, Coffelt left the guard booth, propped against it, and fired his .38-caliber service revolver at Torresola, who was about 30 feet away. Coffelt hit Torresola two inches above the ear, killing him instantly. Officer Coffelt--a hero--died in the hospital four hours later.

The entire gunfight lasted 40 seconds, but must have seemed to the officers to have occurred in slow motion. Their bravery made them unstoppable. Injured badly, they continued to fight until the president was safe.

What’s also worth mentioning about this attack is that it was timed to coincide with military attacks by Puerto Rican nationalists in their home country. On Oct. 30, the day before, "terrorists" with the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party had launched an uprising to throw off American colonialism.

No one has said the Secret Service of 2014 lacks brave agents, but when assigning presidential detail, using the modern-day counterparts to Birdzell, Coffelt, Downs, and Mroz would be a good start.

Footnote: Puerto Rico meant something politically to the Democrats and Truman's foreign policy.

Oscar Collazo, who survived his wounds, was sentenced to death, but Truman commuted his sentence to life in prison. He was released in 1979, when Jimmy Carter commuted his sentence again, to time served (perhaps Carter was looking to win the two electoral college votes Puerto Rico offers up during Election Night)?

Not only that, but Officer Coffelt's widow, Cressie E. Coffelt, was asked by Truman and the Secretary of State to go to Puerto Rico, where she received condolences from various Puerto Rican leaders and crowds. Mrs. Coffelt responded with a speech absolving the island's people of blame for the acts of Collazo and Torresola.

Oscar Collazo continued to live a long, productive life. He continued to participate in activities related to the Puerto Rican independence movement. He lived to be 80 years old, dying on Feb. 21, 1994, of a stroke.




Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hanging out with UFO believers

At convention, Big Foot watchers mingle with UFO hunters

They are all perfectly normal people selling tapes, books, and posters as at any trade show or hotel conference. Nothing about them would make them stand out in a crowd. They are believers in God, in country, and in the paranormal.
Fred Salvage, who lives in Weirton, W.Va., is in charge of that state's Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), the organization that collects data on sightings by interviewing people who have seen something unexplainable in the sky. It's a nationwide effort by the organization that reaps hundreds of thousands of reports each month. Salvage does his job, but his interest lies in finding proof of Big Foot in the wilds of his state. With its large sections of wooded and mountainous terrain and few residents, the state is probably good habitat for the large humanoid creatures, Salvage said.
"I have 60 plaster casts of footprints that belong to Big Foot.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The problem with reaching out

Hawking warns against contacting aliens

Does the Pentagon have a battle plan in event of extraterrestrial aggression?
Probably not, though some scientists believe it might be a good idea.

Since the dawn of time, humans have watched the stars for the arrival of something, some arrival, some vehicle, being, or god. Galileo imagined beings on the moon and the Voyagers, which last saw the Earth’s atmosphere in the 1970s, have passed Pluto, the last planet in our solar system. In August 2012, Voyager 1 left us all behind and hit interstellar space—the void between our solar system and the next solar system in the Milky Way. We’re in it now, folks. All we need now is for a spaceship from another civilization to see it and wham! the nose of the craft turns toward Earth, and maybe it’s four miles long, contains smaller planetary invasion ships hanging from racks like shirts in a dry cleaners. It’s all automated, sniffing out life like Voyager, except with an entirely different intent.

Steven Hawking, the genius whose extraordinary mathematical and interstellar mind is not trapped in a wheelchair, warned that this might happen when talking about SETI, the scientific project that sends electronic signals into deep space in hopes of receiving a response from other life forms.

I imagine they might exist in massive ships," Hawking said, "having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach."

Uh Oh. That sounds familiar. It happens all the time in nature. Humans invade other countries and try to eradicate their citizens. Locusts, ants, even chimpanzees overrun their fellows when there’s not enough food or other resources.

The U.S. military plans for everything to protect us, but the Pentagon does not plan South Africa’s response to invasion by other countries; France does not plan England’s response, nor does Italy plan Australia’s response. In other words, if Earth is attacked there must be a coordinated plan in place that includes the militaries of all nations.

Such a coordinated, world-wide battle plan to defeat insect bastards swarming over our planet from vehicles hanging in our daylight skies does not exist. So we might as well admit it: we’re goners if Voyager catches something’s attention. We have a 50-50 chance. Either they’re going to be kindly researchers or deadly pests.

Of course, the visitors could be something worse: passive aggressive. The aliens would act like everything’s OK between us but would leave nasty comments on sticky notes on cars, trees, and windows on buildings.

I’ll take a direct attack any day.

Friday, May 30, 2014

UFO investigator at it for 50 years

Former USAF intelligence officer recounts UFO events
By John L. Guerra

As a young Air Force officer during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was Maj. George Filer's job to courier reconnaissance images of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba from Langley Air Force Base to the Air Force Chief of Staff in the Pentagon.

Genl. Curtis LeMay, the head of the Air Force and organizer of the Strategic Air Command, relied on Filer's delivery of those images to plan America's attack on Cuba--an attack that would almost certainly lead to all-out nuclear war.

To say that Filer, who now lives in New Jersey, was in a position of trust at a crucial moment in world history is no understatement. He also was one of only a handful of Air Force officers to ever hold Top Secret clearance.

Yet even as Filer carried the spyplane photos to his bosses, he was in possession of another powerful military secret: That the previous February a giant aircraft of unknown origin had entered British air space, and while being pursued by an American military aircraft, had shot into space at more than 2,000 miles an hour.

Filer hadn't picked up this baffling and terrifying information second-hand; he had seen the craft as the navigator on the U.S. military aircraft that had pursued the mysterious ship.
Filer agrees to interview 
During a phone interview from his home on Saturday, May 17, Filer told me of the night--just months before the Cuban Missile Crisis--when he and fellow crewmembers on his KB-50J mid-air fueling aircraft were ordered to chase down an immense object in the air over central England. Filer said the sighting cemented his belief that "aircraft not of this civilization" routinely show up in Earth's atmosphere.
"When I joined the Air Force in 1958, I became a navigator after a year of training," Filer said. "Near the end of my tour, in February 1962, we were asked to intercept a UFO over England; it was a large object on scene. The crew of our tanker, a modified B-50 bomber, was made up of two pilots, a navigator, an engineer, and two refueling operators."
Filer and his crewmates—members of the 420th Air Refueling Squadron from Sculthorpe RAF Base--had just completed a mid-air refueling mission over the wintry North Sea when London Control, which manages air traffic in the region Filer was operating, picked up a large flying object on its radar. The control tower asked the crew in the KB-50J to intercept the object, which was in the sky over Central England, near the ancient Stonehenge monument.
It may seem counter-intuitive that a large fueling aircraft would be asked to speed to the location of a suspected UFO, but the Air Force was tired of losing aircraft and pilots.
“Fighter pilots often ran out of gas and our tanker was almost as fast and could fly for many hours. We were told there had been many crashes when armed fighters chased UFOs," Filer said.
Pilot error

Not everyone agreed why pursuit aircraft were crashing, Filer said.
“When pilots chased after a UFO, they often didn’t pay attention to their fuel levels," he said. "They want to see and catch up with the UFO, so they’d run out of gas or exceed aircraft and pilot limitations."
Some military commanders, on the other hand, thought UFOs occasionally defended themselves by downing the fighters sent to intercept them.
One of those who believed Air Force planes had been shot down by UFOs was Air Force Genl. Benjamin Chidlaw, commander of the Continental Defense Command from 1951 to 1955 (he also led the development of the first jet engine and jet aircraft for the American military).
According to Filer, Chidlaw once told investigators: “We have stacks of reports about flying saucers. We take them seriously when you consider we have lost many men and planes trying to intercept them."  (italics are editor's)
In his own words
Here’s Filer’s account of the UFO pursuit over England that changed his life:
London Control excitedly notified us—we were flying at 30,000 feet--that they had an unidentified object hovering between Oxford and Stonehenge at around 1,000 feet altitude. We were asked if we were willing to intercept. Our refueling mission was about over, so we quickly agreed to chase their UFO. We were given an intercept heading and started to dive toward the UFO. This was really fun and exciting compared to a standard mission! I never could recall such speed and power as our six engines were advanced to full military power as we dived on the target.
London Control was diverting commercial aircraft to clear our path for the intercept. Then we realized we were above our red-lined, maximum speed and had trouble slowing our aircraft. We pulled back the power on the engines. London Control started giving our distance to the hovering UFO. They called out, ‘You are100 miles apart, 60, and 40 miles …’
At about 30 miles away from the UFO, my APS-23 Radar  picked up the hovering UFO directly ahead. It was an exceptionally large radar return, reminding me of a large bridge or ship. This craft was bigger than anything I had seen in the air before. It reminded me of the radar return from the Firth of Forth Bridge in Scotland. The return was sharp and solid as compared to the fuzziness of a rain cloud. I felt this craft must be made of steel or strong metal. We were doing around 425 mph as we got to within 10 miles, when the UFO apparently realized we were intercepting it.
It was a dark night; we could only see a series of dim lights directly ahead similar to a cruise ship at sea. Now only five miles separated us. Suddenly the UFO seemed to come alive, the lights brightened immensely and the UFO accelerated in a launch, similar to the Space Shuttle at night. We saw much brighter lights and fantastic acceleration as it climbed almost straight up and suddenly it was gone.
We asked London Control if they had any rocket launches underway in our area. The controller said, "There are no rocket launches in that area, thank you for the intercept, you are now cleared to return to your mission."
It is clear they felt there was a strong radar return for the 20 to 25 minutes it had taken to reach the UFO. We had been cleared directly through various altitudes, airways and commercial traffic so they must have considered this mission very important. I can still see that huge radar return in my mind's eye and I've been chasing UFOs ever since.
The incident was recorded in my navigator’s log and was mentioned the next day in operations, but no intelligence debriefing was made.
 Prince Philip questions crew
 A few weeks later, we were invited to a “dining-in” with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who wished to speak with the aircrews that had chased UFOs. About 10 of us sat around a table eating dessert and discussing UFOs. Prince Phillip was very personable and seemed like one of the guys. He was very interested in my intercept and the large radar return. We assume he had also been briefed by London Control because the US Air Force seemed to have no interest.
I asked Prince Phillip: “Why are you interested in UFOs?” He answered. “My uncle who raised me, Earl Mountbatten, had seen UFOs close up while in the Royal Navy and I believe him”
We since learned that Prince Phillip and his aides have interviewed numerous aircrews who had intercepted UFOs over Britain.
A career in UFO briefings
Shortly after the Stonehenge sighting, Filer was transferred to Langley and because he already had Top Secret clearance, he was drafted into the intelligence world as a courier for LeMay and other Air Force brass during the Cuban crisis.
In the years since 1962, Filer served as an intelligence officer who was repeatedly called upon to brief generals about UFO sightings on or near American military bases. Filer has interviewed military pilots (including Iranian F4 pilots who tried to fire upon UFOs near Tehran, Iran in the 1970s. That report was later declassified and was reported as fact by newspapers around the world.
In perhaps his strangest case, Filer debriefed a security commander at Fort Dix, New Jersey, who told Filer that a night security officer had shot and killed an alien being on the base airstrip. Filer interviewed several security guards who claimed to have witnessed the events the base commander described.
Modern UFO investigator
Filer's experience as a military investigator and intelligence officer dovetails nicely with his present role as New Jersey State director and Eastern U.S. Region director of the Mutual UFO Network. He is the chief editor of the National UFO Center, his online compilation of UFO witness reports, which includes photographs, videos, and other artifacts that readers can view to decide whether UFOs exist.
Filer and his colleagues at NUFOC interview witnesses who believe they've seen undefined craft in the sky, in the water, and on the ground. Filer and NUFOC collect thousands of such sight reports a month, building a database of reports for scientists, UFO-ologists, and enthusiasts to chew on for years to come.
If you are to ask Filer whether strange ships of unknown origin are darting about our skies, flying over our cities, or hovering above or near our military bases, the answer is yes.
"I personally believe some of them have been here as long as we have," Filer said.
The National UFO Center website is

To Buy my book, "Maddie's Gone," go to:

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Winter falls to Southern Maryland spring

Daffodils push their way through melting snow

 By John L. Guerra

The stats are in for Winter 2013-2014: National Airport got 32 inches of snow this winter, while many areas, including Southern Maryland, saw more than 50 inches.
It also was industrial-strength cold this winter, with temps remaining in the teens during January, February, and March with a few warmer days giving short respite to the birds and to us.
The cold just didn't seem to want to let go this year. The last snowfall, a mere three weeks ago, landed on fields of bright yellow daffodils blanketing the shores of the Potomac River in Alexandria. That same snow delivered fat, slow snowflakes that fell in beautiful mimicry of the blossoms on ornamental trees along residential streets.
And finally, the chill news of my brother's passing, borne on cold, spring winds under blue skies. The community of Upper Marlboro, the little town on the banks above the slow, meandering Patuxent River, gathered in a memorial hall at the town's Catholic Church to remember Chuck. On that day we assembled as American communities always have assembled when a son of the town has been lost. Family, friends, co-workers, old, young, and respectful all, as powerful as communities on the Great Plains of the 1830s, or as close-knit as a small Massachusetts town in 1940, we practiced what this year was a rite of spring: On the window sill to a hot and yet un-curtained spring, we regarded each other with love and said goodbye to a good man.
Then the earth shifted a little in its equinox and our hemisphere faced a little more directly into the sun and like a kiss, the temperatures moderated, the Southern Maryland soil warmed and the Chesapeake Bay region revealed its gifts.

When you see dogwood trees blooming on the edges of woods, it means shad are running up the Patuxent and its tributaries, including the Western Branch, which runs right behind the courthouse in Upper Marlboro.
Everywhere people are out and about looking for proof of spring: golfers waiting patiently to play atop smooth putting greens; seed packets for spinach, kale, lettuce, and other spring vegetables on market shelves; live bait for sale; and other bait for sale; smoke from roadside barbecue stands; and small fishing parties standing on the docks in Deale and Chesapeake Beach. The parking lot of the Rod 'N Reel is packed with cars as their owners eat lunch inside the restaurant, hopefully with a table by the window so they can watch the charter boats coming and going up the narrow channel of the marina.
Office accountants, car mechanics, retail store clerks--all feel the pride of Southern Marylanders as they watch the mate at the cleaning table scaling the fish they caught.
I love this area; always have, especially the people I grew up with in Upper Marlboro, went to high school with, and now reunited with since Chuck's passing. I realize now how much a part of me each of them is. Like the soil, the smell of the breeze off the springtime Chesapeake Bay, we are all part of this region. Southern Maryland is in our skin, as it was with our parents and their friends. The planting season, the smiling greeting yelled by a farmer on a tractor, tobacco barns--some of these things may be harder to find, but they are still there. One just has to look a little harder.
You'll have to forgive me my soft spot for these springtime signs. It has been a hard winter for all of us, for that season has as its trademark the cold, the slumbering. To the eternal spring, I raise a toast, for it is the beginning of new things.
And now, there's a rite in the fall, called Croomstock. It's been growing each year and brings together many, many friends who spend a weekend celebrating the present and creating new memories. There will be Locks of Love, where people donate their hair to cancer patients, and other activities. It is just another indication of how special this area is. I look forward to my first Croomstock this fall.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A troubled little boy's bizarre hobby

How a kid got his kicks by the highway

This is the first chapter of my second novel, about a haunted house in Upper Marlboro

Billy trudged across the frozen field to the line of trees where the land dropped away. Holding on to a
slim tree, he looked down and saw the roofs of cars speed past.

Stepping sideways, Billy made his way toward the bottom. Thorn bushes grabbed at his clothes, making the descent difficult. He almost slipped several times as he stepped over dead fall and negotiated the thick bramble.

He stood on the edge of the highway. With little warning, the cars appeared out of nowhere, speeding by just an arm's length away. Knowing that drivers didn't know he was there made Billy giddy.

Billy picked up a handful of gravel, weighing the possibilities with his small fist around cold pebbles. He dug into his collection of possible repercussions and wavered. Cracked windshield, surprised driver, sudden swerve, over-correction of the steering wheel, the screech and smell of burnt rubber--and Billy standing in a courtroom with the relatives of the dead driver weeping behind him.

He quickly dropped the gravel and looked around for a better idea. He jumped slightly as two more cars zipped past, just feet from where he stood. He hadn't been paying attention. He had failed to pick up the sound of the approaching cars. He could have been struck and killed.

That was the answer.

Billy walked along the drainage ditch until he found a spot where drivers would have him in sight for the longest interval. Making sure there was no broken glass or snakes warming themselves in the meek February sun, Billy picked a spot where the grass met the gravel shoulder of the road.

He lay face up, putting his arms and legs at impossible angles. Any drivers or, more likely a passenger watching the world go by outside his window, would see Billy's still body laying on the ground just off the shoulder.

There's a dead kid on the side of the road.

Brake lights. That would be the first cue that his plan worked. Then the sound of a car decelerating, then gravel crunching under tires as the driver pulled onto the shoulder to stop. Then, depending on how many people are in the car, the sound of a car door or doors opening, then shutting. If Billy timed it right, he would have several cars pulling over at once, with confused adults yelling for someone to call an ambulance.

On his back, his head lower than his legs--which he put at unnatural angles--Billy placed one of his arms under his body. He stared up at the sky (open eyes on dead people is the money-shot in this particular exercise) and kept perfectly still. Billy held, held, held ... the position.

Brake lights. Rapidly decelerating car. Tires on gravel.

Billy jumped up and ran down the ditch, laughing, exhilarated, his blood pumping through his veins like electricity. The driver, seeing what was happening, cussed Billy, got back in his car and peeled off, throwing gravel in a rooster tail.

Billy howled and jumped up and down. He felt joy at shocking strangers and getting away with it. For those moments, when he was on his back less than a foot from speeding cars and daring himself vulnerable not to move, his heart and pushed blood and oxygen to his brain, shoving energy right where he needed it. In his soul.

Billy jogged back and lay on the ground again, this time putting trash on his legs and other props to improve his act. He tried facing away from the road. Unable to see his face, drivers would more readily assume he was a cadaver.

He heard cars approaching.

Billy's heartbeat jacked up and his chest pumped against his giggling. He held his breath ... held ... held then brake lights lit the dark tree trunks. Decelerating car, gravel crunching under tires, a car skidding in the gravel, the sound of doors opening ...

"Oh my God! It's a little kid!" Billy heard a woman moan in horror. She was too scared to move much beyond her open passenger car door.

"Oh my God," a man said, more quietly.

Billy jumped up and stumbled like a reanimated corpse trying to gain its footing.

"Jesus my God!" the woman screamed. She broke into hysterical sobs.

The man started laughing.

"Maureen, get back in the car. It's OK."

"That poor kid! He's injured! He's hurt!"

"Maureen," he said gently, "Get in the car. Let's get out of here."

The woman caught on. Realizing she'd been duped, yelled, "You little bastard! I hope you really get hit by a car!"

Billy stopped running when the car pulled off and sped away. He laughed long and hard, knowing he'd be here to do it again. He began his climb back up the hill.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Could Malaysia Air passengers be alive?

People fall from miles high--and survive

(Please note my twitter address:    @1johnguerra       I would love to hear from you!)

By John L. Guerra

The world shakes its head in wonder as navies from several nations search for a stolen Boeing 777 with more than 200 passengers aboard. A heavy is gone, without a trace.
That sentence would have sounded absurd just two weeks ago, but not this week. The decades-long mystery of Amelia Earhart's missing Electra aircraft has now been supplanted by Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.
Could a miracle happen? Could the passengers be alive, held in a large warehouse somewhere on an island in the Indian Ocean? Is the large aircraft be safely landed, hidden beneath a huge swath of camouflage netting?
Aviation history teaches us that it ain't over until it's over, that miracles do occur in mid-air and passengers survive. For instance, in World War I, there are stories of pilots or gunners falling out of their open cockpits, only to land on another flying biplane below. One man actually fell out of his plane and landed back in it.
These true stories of aviation miracles are taken from

Gunner falls from plane, reunites in mid-air: During a dogfight in January 1918, Royal Flying Corps pilot Capt. Reginald Makepeace (this is his real name) turned his Bristol F.2B biplane into a steep dive, throwing his gunner out. The gunner and the biplane were in the same angle of dive, so they somehow came together again. Next thing he knew, the gunner was holding on to the tail section for dear life. He crawled back into his seat. The lucky gunner had fortune in another way: he continued his war, shooting down 11 more enemy aircraft before war's end, giving him a total 17 kills. After the war he moved to Chicago.

  • Pilot falls 3 miles into the Pacific, lives: Marine Lt. Cliff Judkins, flying an F-8 Crusader fighter jet during mid-air refueling, pulled his ejection seat when his jet caught fire.
    The seat failed to eject. He kicked the canopy out and jumped. When he pulled his parachute ring, the chute opened only partially, creating a bundle of cloth wrapped in the shrouds high above his head. Judkins should have been killed twice by now, but he was still alive and able to understand that he had three miles to fall to the Pacific Ocean. The tangled chute slowed him but he still hit the ocean at 110 mph. He survived the fall with two severely broken ankles, a broken pelvis and vertebra, a partially collapsed lung and various lesser injuries.

  • Captain sucked through windshield, survives: The captain of British Airways Flight 5390, flying from Birmingham, England to an island off Spain, was doing just fine until the windscreen on his left side blew out when the aircraft was at 17,300 feet. Capt. Tim Lancaster was sucked through the opening to the outside of the aircraft, but the backs of his knees jammed against the top of the hole and his feet caught under the yoke of the control column. Another member of the crew grabbed his legs. The wind flailed Lancaster's head against the outside of the fuselage like a snare drum for quite a few air miles. The crew assumed he was dead; his eyes were open but blank. Tough to picture, but suffice it to say that Lancaster's body was in an impossible contortion. He lived: His body went comatose from the shock and force of the blows but he revived a few days later (the plane landed with him still sticking out of the window). He suffered a fractured arm and wrist.

  • Young woman survives after plane breaks apart: Peruvian LANSA Flight 508 from Limablew up in mid-air after lightning struck at 21,000 feet. The world learned that 86 passengers and three crew members had died in the crash. That number, however, had to be reduced to 85 dead about two weeks later. That's when 17-year-old Juliane Koepcke walked out of the jungle and asked for help. How did she survive the fall to earth? The seats were attached in rows of three; when the plane exploded, Juliane stayed belted in her seat, though the other seats lost their passengers. So the two empty seats with her in the third created a spiraling effect--just like those helicopter seeds you toss in the air. She spun all the way to the jungle canopy two miles below. She landed in an area thick with vines, which broke her fall. She unsnapped her seat belt, stood up, and began to walk. Unable to see out of one eye, wearing one sandal and a mini-skirt, she stepped out of the jungle 12 days later, right into the town where the plane was scheduled to land before it fell from the sky.

  • Plane keeps flying without passengers: In February 1943, a C-87, the cargo version of the military B-24, took off from West Palm Beach for the Azores.
  • The crew leveled off at 9,000 feet (nearly two miles) but 90 miles off shore, the plane soon started to misbehave. The pilot turned west, back toward West Palm Beach but things got worse. The crew threw everything overboard, but no good. The pilot ordered everyone out, including himself. Eight went out the door, but Coast Guard vessels could only find six. The two are lost to history. However, the plane, bereft of the humans, leveled out and flew on. It traveled another 1,300 miles, crossing the Gulf of Mexico (it was on auto pilot, due west) and arrived above the town of Zaragoza, Mexico. Once above the town, it flew lazy circles above the town and eventually crashed into a nearby mountain.

           -- From "Amazing But True Stories," by Stephan Wilkinson,

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A ship captain's sorrow, a sister's threatened future

Novel recounts Key West at its grimy, passionate best
For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that no subject is beyond my attempts at analysis: UFOs and nuclear weapons; the modern-day hunt for brontosaurs in the Congo; the notorious ride of the first monkey in space, and other unique topics.
This week I want to pass on this review of my first novel--please buy it and read it. I am certain you'll read every word.
From a Key West newspaper: 
"Maddie's Gone," John Guerra's novel that spans generations of Key West history, is now available in paperback.
The novel, which scores a 4.5 out of 5 on Amazon's reader review scale, is rich in detail and characters that include a heroin junkie, a serial killer, and an old fisherman with regrets.
The main tale--the story of a dog's desperate ordeal--wraps around short stories in which the dog, Maddie also appears during her adventure. It all ties together for an ending readers never expect.
In one story, "Dying Declaration," an old man describes the day in 1962 when two men came to stay in his mother's guest house on Whitehead Street. He was just a boy when the men stood at their third-story window watching JFK drive by in a motorcade to the Truman White House. A year later, the men would kill the president from another window in Dallas.
In "Honor Student," a Key West High School senior worries that her boyfriend is trying to sleep with her 14-year-old sister. She decides to handle it Conch-style, which draws hard questions from a homicide detective.
In perhaps the most surprising stories, "Manny's Story," an old shrimp boat captain tells a young man with marital troubles a story to help him see the light. As the young man listens, Manny tells him of how his wife lost her life aboard their shrimp boat during a storm. And she wasn't just washed overboard, either.
Readers have enjoyed the plot and the characters in the novel. Here are some reviews:

--"This is a book that grabs from the start and takes the reader in an ever-expanding vista of Key West at its grimy and passionate best," wrote Daniel Strong.
--"As a Keys-a-phobe, I loved the embedded stories rich with believable characters. I also came to love Maddie. I hope to see more from this author."
--"Knowing Key West, it was great to see it through the dog's eye. Her encounters with so many different 'characters' was just like what we as humans see there. Great storyline."
--"The Key West newspaperman delivers a great first novel built around the tale of a missing Jack Russell terrier. I loved the scenes in the lives of Cuban families ... "

"Maddie's Gone" is available in paperback from,, and as an ebook from

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Time to admit what UFOs really are

From Keys to Virginia, Americans see odd lights in the sky


A resident of Ashburn, Va., points to the end of his street. A formation of lights hung low over the ground for more than a half hour before leaving in two groups. The event occurred in August 2012.
'Arc of light' videotaped over Ashburn, Virginia

Two weeks ago, they were back.

Human beings are at a loss when faced with gigantic truths. Take nuclear attack, for instance. Most futurists--historians, sociologists, scientists--say with certainty that the nightmare of nightmare events will occur in America at some point. Has to. The odds are too great and increase each year.
Yet how often do we, including our politicians, stop what we're doing for a couple of hours to consider what this means. How it will affect our lives, nation, world. Are you ready to become a refugee? To be part of a human herd of refugees living in tents spread across several square miles of open country? It's the nicest part of a nuclear event over a city. I believe if Americans took the time to examine what a nuclear explosion really means, they'd no longer feel like working, paying the bills, or in some cases, would stop following the rules. In short, if we understood that the nation's economy, any retirement we're saving for, and everything we embrace is doomed, we'll realize we're all wasting our time. To make life mean something, we take the nuclear war truth and we put nit up on a shelf and forget it. We think about the nightmare truth whenever North Korea launches a ballistic missile or India and Pakistani troops clash over Kashmir, but that's not very often or for very long.
The U.S. Government has directed us to prepare for such events; Congress has passed laws creating a legal framework for the role local, state and federal agencies will play in the eventuality of societal collapse. In other words, there are plans in place for when it happens.
Yet if you are like me, you haven't given the idea of societal collapse much thought. Well, I confess I do think about such things from time to time, but most sane people will shrug or avoid the idea and attend to more important endeavors such as work, picking up the kid from school, or taking a good nap.

What do UFO sightings mean?

In a lengthy discussion about UFOs with my sister a couple of weeks ago, it struck me that there's not much doubt left there, either. When I say UFOs, I don't mean aircraft that simply don't look right, or behave oddly. I mean solid objects entering the world's air space that are not engineered or operated by humans.
I know, that's quite a statement. If they are not from Earth, then what are they? Good thing I've got a crowd of people who agree with me--and if you can't call these people experts, there are no experts.
In the Keys, military personnel and pilots also have seen unexplainable craft in the sky:

What convinced me were the thousands of people of science and engineering--nuclear physicists, aeronautical engineers, national security officials, commercial and private pilots, air traffic controllers, radar operators, air force generals and personnel from the U.S. and other of the world's nations believe the same thing.
What really nails it for me are the astronauts who also are scientists. Not one, not five, but dozens of U.S. astronauts and flight specialists--rocket scientists--have stated, for the record, that extraterrestrial craft have followed or even approached them on missions to the moon and in low earth orbit. They had equipment to measure the size, mass, and speed of these objects. They recorded on film the impossible changes of direction the vehicles performed in view of their own space craft.
These craft have been demonstrating their maneuverability in broad daylight and at night since at least 1947, the Year of the Flying Saucer. That summer they suddenly were everywhere in the country, reports of sightings pouring into police departments, newspapers, and television stations in June, July, and in the midst of this saucer craze, one went down in Roswell. Forget the alien bodies being recovered and stored in some government vault. I'm talking about what can be proved by eyewitnesses, with scientific instruments, and still and video cameras. There are the radar images in air traffic control towers, military bases, and very credible eyewitnesses
When tens of thousands of people witness the same sighting, as in the case of the Phoenix lights and the several nights where thousands of people watched flying discs zip above the White House, the Mall, and down the Potomac River.

Mr. Saucer goes to Washington

In 1952, a formation of seven flying saucers flew up and down the East Coast over several nights in what seemed intentional showboating. President Harry Truman was aware of it and asked his military to keep him apprised. On a Saturday night, they showed up over Washington, D.C., picked up by Andrew's Air Force Base and National Airport towers. Military pilots scrambled after them in fighter jets. They surrounded one and flew off. The National Guard pilot went on record saying he was no longer a skeptic. The craft were extraterrestrial in origin, he told The Washington Post.

Now, in Ashburn on Jan. 3--just two weeks ago--a friend told me to watch WJLA Channel 7 news. I live near Ashburn, which is next to Dulles Airport, and I wasn't surprised when I saw the amateur video taken by an Ashburn resident. Whether these are extraterrestrial, I can't tell. But they sure like odd. Here's the link to the video that caught the latest Ashburn incident, and the latest that have occurred in places I've lived.

What then, does accepting that craft, not built by humans and most certainly not piloted by humans, have made themselves visible to so many human beings at once? Whatever beings are entering the world's airspace most certainly are more advanced, wouldn't you say? What is their intent? What are they saying with their in-your-face flying antics? What does it mean for us?
The most brazen activity occurs over military bases where nuclear weapons are deployed or stored. Are they putting their safety at risk (by coming so close to bases protected by fighter aircraft) because they're trying to figure out how to prevent humans from setting them off?

A former commander at Malstrom Air Force Base, a now-closed Minuteman missile complex in Montana (Think "The Day After") has been interviewed widely about what happened there. Robert Salas, deputy missile combat crew commander, was below ground in the complex when security guards on the surface called down to report orange flying discs hovering above the concrete lids that cover the missile silos.
Salas, who repeatedly has told his story publicly (and to superiors who investigated the incident) that the missiles, which are strung across the countryside for dozens of miles, went "offline" or became inoperable while the UFOs were overhead. This is a national security event of the highest order.  OK, incoming missiles would be worse.

Is there a message?

The silo guards--certainly not the kind of people who would make something up--honestly reported what they'd seen. These are people are vetted for security clearances that allow them near launch codes, firing pins, all the stuff of nightmares. In short, pretty reliable people.

Several of them reported seeing UFOs over the base.
Here's a document that shows the Air Force investigated the missile shutdowns and that UFOs were mentioned by these very serious people as one impossibility (by Air Force standards). The document indicates that Air Force investigators could find no radar image recordings or other electronic indication that something had been in the air over the base. That means they looked into the claims of topside security personnel.

Is this proof? Absolutely not. But what I can't shake is the number of highly responsible people who say these events occur.
The missile shutdown occurred in 1967. In the years since other base commanders have reported bizarre lights and strange solid objects over nuclear facilities around the United States and in England.
Salas said during an interview with the Discovery Channel that he believes his topside guards saw bizarre flying objects. He knows them, trained them, and as bizarre as it seems, he believes the craft were extraterrestrial in origin. He also believes whatever is showing up over military bases is trying tell us something.
What is that message?

"Get rid of your nukes," he said.
In the years since the Malstrom UFO incident, Salas went on to work for Martin-Marietta Aerospace, Rockwell International on Space Shuttle design proposals, and has held other top-security jobs.
I believe him.