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Missile Trail

Above Southern California
March 15, 2002

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The sign says, "Here you leave behind the world of today and enter the worlds of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy." But we couldn't have been more in touch with reality as we strolled from Adventureland past Pirates of the Caribbean to see a giant, weaving missile trail in the sky. Most of the crowd by Rivers of America were stopped, watching it ascend, and you could hear the word "Vandenberg" coming from several of them.

Above the trail was a flame-like glow, as if you could see the rocket's exhaust and then suddenly, a puff of smoke and the glow was gone. But the trail remained for quite a while, and while it grew dark down where we were, it stayed lit by the sun in the West as the high winds twisted it into pretzel shapes. As the sun dipped, the area where the rocket had puffed out turned into a feathered rainbow, like oil on a river's surface.

The 10 o'clock news said it had been a test of the missile defense system -- a target missile launched from Vandenberg had sailed out over the Pacific until it met a destroyer missile launched from some unspecified offshore vehicle.