‘Balls of fire over Rockford’ mystery solved

by BETH ALTENA

We know there are plenty of mysteries in the night skies of Rockford because we heard all about them last week from callers. The “balls of fire” in the sky over Rockford the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 15 no longer remain one of those mysteries, however.

Nate, a sophomore at Rockford, sets off a wish lantern in honor of his father, who died in a car accident a year ago on September 15.

The calls started coming in quickly after the Squire went to press last week. One of the first callers, Verna, was walking near Krause Memorial Library and said she saw the lights in the sky.

“They looked just like the running lights of an airplane, but they couldn’t be because there was no sound,” Verna stated.

From her perspective, the lights appeared tiny, no bigger than the end of her finger, and they were white. Verna said she was “flabbergasted” by the sight. The first group of six or eight floated over the library toward the credit union on the corner of Bridge and Monroe streets. She said there were way too many to be hot air balloons and they were also too close together.

Rockford Volunteer Police Unit member Larry has seen what looked like balls of fire over Lake Bella Vista. In the dark the balls appeared to be filled with fire, but with binoculars Larry saw the glowing orb was in fact a hot air balloon, complete with a Michigan State S on the side.

Brian advised that the balls could be ball lightening, an effect he saw online by Googling “balls of fire.”

Crystal of Rockford saw a similar phenomenon a year ago when driving north on US-131. She approached the Rockford overpass and saw hovering balls of fire in the sky over the road, all in a line. As she continued north, she saw two more just after the 14 Mile Road exit. Those two were moving southward, as though to join the others. She called the Rockford Police, who said no one else had reported the sighting. They connected her to the National Weather Service, who said there was nothing in the skies in that area.

“It was the weirdest thing I ever saw,” she stated, saying the light in the balls didn’t flicker like flame, or shine down onto the ground. She said if you search “orange orbs” on the Internet, you will find pictures that look exactly like what she saw.

Dorothy, a resident of Marcell Ridge Apartments, saw the balls Wednesday evening. She said they were round, red and made no sound. That night she watched the news to see if there would be a report and, when nothing was mentioned, she wondered if there was something wrong with her and she had hallucinated the whole thing. She saw four in a line.

“They amazed me, they all stayed together in a row. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Dorothy.

Neil said he and his wife both saw the balls. He believes they must have something to do with the military, because the balls were in formations of two and were very regularly spaced.

Steve saw the balls of fire from D&W and thought they might have something to do with a funeral. The ones he watched also came in twos with eerie precision.

There were other ideas called in, but one caller had the true answer. Rockford resident Cathy Fazio lost her husband, Kevin Bruce Fazio, 41, a year ago in a car accident. On the anniversary of his death, she and other friends and family gathered together to cry, to remember him, and to be together on the sad day.

“He would have liked the evening,” she said.

The group spent some time at the cemetery and then returned to Fazio’s home in the Village. There the group inflated and released 35 “wish lanterns” in his memory. Fazio said she has seen the lanterns in a video and looked online. She found that they are commonly used in ceremonies in England. The lanterns are paper and biodegradable. A core in the bottom is lit, which provides heat to inflate and float the balloons, which were then released.

“We thought about doing it in the cemetery, but were worried about all the trees,” Fazio said.

She said the balloons sink when the core burns out and are constructed not to cause fires.

“My husband would have thought this was all pretty funny,” she said of the excitement around town following the release of the balloons.

For Squire readers, we are still interested in hearing about the strange objects out there or inexplicable occurrences. Keep the calls coming at (616) 866-4465 or e-mail squiremail@aol.com.

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