The Allen County Homeland Security director made a point to drive past ITT Corp. around Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.
ITT dresses up for patriotic holidays. The defense contractor at Lima and Cook roads puts up a straight, proud row of American flags along the edge of its grounds.
But the Homeland Security director didn’t take much notice of the flags today when he approached ITT. He was as interested in what might be going on inside the plant as outside it.
He had called ITT to say he was running a bit late for his appointment. His interviews with Smith Field personnel had taken longer than expected.
At ITT’s two plants along Cook Road, guides walked the Homeland Security director around labs, testing rooms and manufacturing spaces where the company makes battlefield communications devices, and cameras and radio-wave sensors for weather satellites. He talked with executives, engineers, researchers and technicians. He already was well-versed on ITT and other defense contractors in the city – Raytheon Systems, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. He would have the same question for officials at each of the plants that day:
“Are you testing any products in the Smith Field area that might emit bluish lights or interfere with radio signals?”
He hoped one of them was, if for no other reason than to quell the fears of people calling his office with sightings of UFOs on the north side of town. Of course, it might not explain the lights over Fox Island. Also, there had been a couple of calls to the sheriff’s department about blinking blue lights over farmland east of Fort Wayne. A few people reported what they claimed was a hovercraft early one morning over the Old Fort along Spy Run Avenue near downtown. McMillen Park produced sightings, too.
None of the defense contractors was conducting such experiments, the Homeland Security director learned. Each company was in fact fielding calls about the various sightings. The businesses were willing to cooperate and participate in any investigation.
ITT officials in particular were curious; Smith Field was a stone’s throw away on Cook Road. Although ITT conducts outdoor tests of its military communications devices – checking the range of the wireless gear, for example – it was nothing that would cast lights in the sky or cause static on a radio channel.
The Homeland Security director had another stop to make while on the north side. He drove back by Smith Field, to the Ludwig Park neighborhood, to meet the guy who had been bugging airport personnel with questions about blue lights.
Jake welcomed the director into his ranch-style house. Jake was working from home that afternoon, he explained; he’d had a doctor’s appointment in the morning. Good thing, his guest thought. Jake looked like he hadn’t slept in a week – his eyes sank into his head, dark circles underneath, his salt-and-pepper hair tousled and tangled.
They made small talk. Jake introduced his guest to his daughter, who was just leaving for band practice at Northrop High School.
“What instrument do you play?” the Homeland Security director asked.
“Trumpet,” Chelsea replied.
“I played trombone many moons ago,” the official said.
Chelsea smiled and excused herself. She rolled her eyes at her father on her way out the door.
“What time,” she asked him, “are the little green men coming over tonight?”
“Kids got no respect these days,” Jake said.
“I know; I’ve got teenagers myself,” Jake’s guest said. “Now, tell me about the lights you saw the other night.”