What actually happened at Area 51?

Sep 21, 2019, 4:14 PM | Updated: Apr 28, 2020, 10:27 am
About 80 people gathered at the back gate of Area 51 at 3:00 a.m. on September 20, 2019 to 'See the...
About 80 people gathered at the back gate of Area 51 at 3:00 a.m. on September 20, 2019 to 'See them Aliens.' Colby Walker

BACK GATE OF AREA 51, Nevada — Floodlights lit up the 80 or so dedicated UFO and paranormal enthusiasts shortly after 3 a.m. on September 20th. That’s the time that the viral Facebook post written by Bakersfield California native Matty Roberts called on the internet to storm the secretive US Military base located in the remote Nevada desert.

Roberts though wasn’t one of those that was gathered in the cold this September morning. His party happened in downtown Las Vegas on the 19th after safety concerns were raised about what might happen if tens of thousands of believers and internet meme lovers descended on the small town of Rachel, Nevada.

The Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel Nevada just a few miles from Area 51.
Colby Walker

Even without the man who started the whole thing, spirits were high among those gathered at the back gate of Area 51 . They chanted “let them out” and some raised their signs that read things like, “run faster than their bullets” and “locked up for why?”

Sgt. Orlando Guerra with the Nevada Department of Public Safety was one of the law enforcement officers tasked with making sure things didn’t get out of hand throughout the course of the celebrations that happened this weekend. His investigative unit is based out of Carson City, Nevada more than 300 miles away.

“We’re out here assisting the Lincoln County Sheriff, he asked for help and so our division came out to help,” Sgt. Guerra said.

Guerra, along with his team, was just a small part of the massive law enforcement presence that was scattered throughout rural Nevada.

A few weeks ago both Lincoln County, where the majority of Area 51 sits, along with its neighboring Nye County declared states of emergency.

Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said that designation allowed the county to gain resources from the state to help before the onslaught of curious travelers visited his county.

Units from across the state responded to help. One-hundred fifty additional police officers from across the state were brought in. They came from places as far away as Reno and Las Vegas, as well as other state and federal agencies like the BLM and the State Parks Service.

What it was like hunting memes outside Area 51

Though there weren’t the 30,000 people that they planned on coming to “see them aliens” Sheriff Lee said he was glad that things were mostly uneventful and that those in attendance were well behaved.

Utahns made up a good portion of those that were there in the middle of the night to look for answers and “see them aliens” as well.

A group of students from SUU left Cedar City at midnight to meet up with other stormers at the Back Gate of Area 51. Caroline Clements, Caycee Goodwin, Darren Smith, Jada Chepkwurui all said they’ve been interested in UFOs and figured this might be the place to find answers.


“I know aliens are real, but I wanted to see what Area 51 was actually like,” Chepkwuri said. “I’m not seeing anything but a gate though, and that’s better than nothing,” she continued.

The four said if they were to come back if this happens again, though they’d come more prepared. Most of them were dressed in shorts and t-shirts braving the 40-degree weather.

The SUU students were not the only Utah students in attendance.

Brennan Streader, Samuel Hallewell, Kevin Tatum, and Ashley Rookstool were also out visiting.

“We’re trying to find aliens,” Streader said.

Unfortunately, they didn’t find any aliens, but they did find plenty of people that said they’ve seen the aliens inside as well as some top-secret countersurveillance technology.

“It’s definitely been not something that I expected,” Rookstool said. “But it’s just funny to see the different kinds of people that are here and how different and weird everybody is. It’s fun.”

There were lots of tinfoil hats, a few inflatable aliens, and about 20 people who did actually try and Naruto Run towards the gates. They stopped just short though not actually wanting to see if they could outrun the bullets from those standing guard.


A Naruto Run refers to a form of running that involves spreading one’s arms behind the back. In an anime series, “Naruto,” this form allows a person to run faster than a bullet.

In total, out of the 80 or so people who were there eight of them, not including myself, were from Utah, which means that 10% of those that actually showed up were representing the Beehive state.

All in all, Sgt. Guerra said that things went well.

“They came in to see what they wanted to see and they left. It went good, everybody was cooperative and everybody listened to instructions and they got to see what they wanted to.”

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What actually happened at Area 51?