- La Verrière is a commune in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France in north-central France. "La Verrière" means "The Canopy."
Thanks to Chris.
It didn't take long to realize that this object was something quite unique. It is hard to deduce the distance that this object had been out in the sky but it was too large to have been a regular bird and did not look like an airplane or anything mechanical. The reason why it was so odd is that although seeing this from my angle looking up at it, I could not make out any real definition but I did see what looked like wings above this mass that flapped like the wings of a butterfly.
It looked like what a gigantic butterfly would appear to be at a great distance in the sky. It was not streamlined or had wings open like a bird soaring. This is what really knocked me over. As it kept passing over I looked at this object that I then considered to be some kind of very large 'bird' because of the 'wings' that I saw flapping but in the motion that a butterfly would flap its wings. So in my mind my first thought was a huge 'bird' because of the many sightings of enormous 'birds' and the thought of a gigantic butterfly was to me, outlandish.
Lastly, I do remember some 'color' in this mass and to the best of my memory, shades of red-orange, possibly reddish-yellow but I did see a hint of color in it. It passed and it was gone. It flew like it was in no rush at all. I went around the building to see if I could see more of it but couldn't. I could not see any real definition like a head or tail but the 'butterfly' type wings and motion were standout in my memory.Grant Lawrence remarkably makes the connection between this new LA-area sighting and a rather dramatic account that is part of February 24-25, 1942's infamous "Battle of Los Angeles."
Even in a somewhat experience-hardened newsroom, Wednesday's news that somebody had set themselves on fire at Longfellow Square was a shock.
The man, who was identified yesterday as David Parker, 24, of Portland, reportedly soaked himself with gasoline in his nearby apartment, walked over to the Longfellow statue and ignited the fuel. He has reportedly been transferred to a Boston burn center.
But the ripple effect from the event continues, with police urging witnesses to seek help if they need it. One local property manager noted that witnessing the man ablaze "is going to stay with me for awhile."
In the midst of the community conversation, some odd facts were emerging. They have, frankly, nothing to do with the event except of course ... well, judge for yourself.
Now, regular readers know that Loren Coleman is no stranger to our pages or out-of-ordinary. He's been in this and other papers and newscasts as owner of the International Cryptozoology Museum on Congress Street — near Longfellow Square.
But Coleman is also a suicide prevention researcher and author, and his most recent book includes a section about "suicide self-immolation." The book, "The Copycat Effect," was published in 2004 by Simon and Schuster.
He noted a couple of oddities:
(1) The statue of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Longfellow Square, Coleman noted, was unveiled on the same date as the event (Sept. 29, 1888) as confirmed by a bibliography entry of the Maine Historical Society (" Exercises at the unveiling of the statue of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Portland, Maine, Sept 29, 1888.").
That means Wednesday was the 122nd anniversary of the statue's unveiling.
(2) Longfellow's second wife, Frances Appleton, died in 1861 after sustaining burns from her dress catching fire.
Random enough by any measure, but in the wake of a freak-out, it's also stuff that takes on eerie near-meaning.
Perhaps more to the point is the subtitle to the Coleman book: "How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines."
Coleman makes the oft-noted point that people seem to imitate what they've seen. He also takes some aim at media for the "if it bleeds, it leads."
Certainly there is ample evidence that suicide can bring suicide, and some of the better research is collected in the famous best-seller by Malcolm Gladwell, "The Tipping Point." So should we be concerned that the presumed suicide attempt at Longfellow Square, being so dramatic, might trigger copy-cat attempts?
By extension, does that mean we should not report on such things?
It's not acceptable in today's media environment, and casual media observers might doubt the industry's ability to make such efforts. If you're among those who think that sensationalism will always win, then two examples quickly prove you wrong.
Professional news organizations almost never disclose the name of a sexual assault victim, and we routinely do not publish the names of minors charged with crimes. So universal is this tradition that many people assume there are laws requiring the omissions — there are not.
News folks are not in the same league as police officers and other first responders when it comes to handling such things. Myself, I was once a coroner's photographer (well, a backup for when the real photographer was not available), and that was gory duty. But still, the despair one associates with setting yourself on fire is unsettling.
Hopefully, this is not going to create copycat activity. And hey, maybe even this column is "wrong."
So, what do you think? And if you e-mail an answer, please indicate if you want it published.
And, yes, there is irony in that request.
Curtis Robinson is editor of The Portland Daily Sun. Contact him at email@example.com