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For a few years, since I have been writing for Viewzone, I have wanted to tell a story - perhaps the most important story I have ever been a part of - but the staff here have resisted. Viewzone is run on a shoestring budget, mostly on sweat and old fashioned journalistic zeal, but that kind of equity is vulnerable, especially when it is confronted by the most powerful forces on the planet.
But an odd thing happened today. We had a staff meeting that was rather unusual and surprisingly sober. The mood was kind of sad, like when the founder's Dad suddenly died in a nursing home last year. This time the death was not as personal, but it was more deeply felt.
Some of us here are old. No, not quite ready for that nursing home, but old enough to remember the Beatles, Hendrix, the Vietnam War and Nixon. Lately, a few of us have even been playing the old albums of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and wiping a few tears as we recalled the good days of free-loving and political indignance to a corrupt government that kept sending our classmates home in body bags.
The election of so many Republicans caused a kind of "Deja-vu" all over again, but this time there is no optimistic youth movement, no free-love and no indignance.
"Dan, do you still want to write... you know what?" Owner, Vey asked me. I was speechless. "Because if you do, then... well, damn go ahead! What the hell."
The somber mood broke, some coffee cups spilled, and tears of a different kind flickered in our eyes.
So what I am going to write about is something that happened here at Viewzone about four years ago. We have all known about it and it has been eating away inside our guts like an digested bean burrito. Finally, the time is pregnant to let it out, despite the danger. So here goes.
The Winter of '98 Gets Even Colder
We started Viewzone in 1996. The internet was young and we were ignorant. At first we published stories and articles that were based on our own interests, mainly for our friends. In 1997, owner Gary Vey learned how to access the statistics for the web site and shocked us all by reporting the we had a readership of about 150,000 people a month. Hell, that couldn't be right - could it?
By the early part of 1998 we were receiving manuscripts and e-mails with story ideas and our readership had climbed to over one-million monthly readers. That was truly amazing and it opened our eyes to the power of the internet.
At the time, the television show "X-Files," with topics about UFO's and weird science, was at the top of the charts. So were shows like "Sightings" and "The Unexplained." We rode on this popularity with a similar venue and we were all caught up in the seemingly endless unresolved phenomena that was all around us. It was fun writing about aliens, the "face" on Mars and suppressed history. We got literally hundreds of e-mails a day, mostly positive, and a good supply of story idea. It was a magazine editor's dream come true.
One evening I got a phone call. I just happened to be in Viewzone's Connecticut office because a cold and icy storm had made driving home impossible. The caller asked for me by name and the connection was faint and wrought with static.
The caller asked me to please listen to him for a minute or two while he said what he had to say and asked that I not interrupt him. He had a nervous voice and I pictured him to be in his late 20's. I agreed and pressed the phone to my ear. "Go ahead. I can hear you."
The caller said he was in Alaska. He told me that he had read Viewzone on the internet and respected what we were doing. He told me that he and a friend wanted to tell me something that I ought to write about - something that was both important and terrible, and that I wouldn't believe it unless I came to Alaska to see it for myself.
"We are sending you a round trip ticket by FedEx. We will meet you and take care of everything if you agree to protect us. This is heavy stuff. I will tell you a little about it when I send the tickets. I hope I can trust you." His voice was trembling. Suddenly there was a long pause. "You still there, Dan?"
"Yes. Okay. I agree... but..." The line was dead. Was this a prank? Who would do this? I picked up the phone to relate the incident to my best friend, thinking he would get a laugh from it, but I stopped. There was something unusual in the man's voice - fear - that made me decide to wait, at least for a few days to see if some tickets arrived.