West Michiganders react to meteor sighting and a viral video that caught the moment

Newschannel 3 photographer Zach Lawler caught the fireball falling through a dashboard camera Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, while he was returning from an assignment. (WWMT)

People across the nation were talking about the meteor that flew through Michigan skies Tuesday evening. Newschannel 3 first showed viewers video of the fireball that passed several states in the region. Newschannel 3’s dash camera video has since gone viral. On Wednesday, hundreds of people in west Michigan shared their reactions of the sighting.

“I come out my door to bring my dogs out and I looked across the street and seen what looked like a giant star shape, almost, with a flame behind it,” said Tony Gonzalez, who saw the meteor near Comstock.

The flash brought out a sense of humor on Newschannel 3’s Facebook page. But at first, the meteor raised questions.

“Are we being watched? Is this something in the sky that’s watching everybody? I really didn’t know what it was,” Gonzalez said.

Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller said some of those questions briefly flooded their 911 call center.

“They were curious: What was it, what happened? Of course, dispatchers were inundated for a few minutes, and then after that the calls went away just like the meteorite did,” Fuller said.

Mark Reed, the planetarium manager at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, said a meteor sighting isn’t uncommon. He explained that fragments from space fall to Earth daily, many as small as a grain of sand.

“If you have a bigger object, say an object the size of a grapefruit to a basketball, they’re going to make a much brighter appearance across the sky,” Reed said. “They happen probably once a year, every couple years where it’s bright enough where people can see it over several states.”

Gonzaelez, while showing pictures he took of the meteor using his cell phone, said “to catch something that a lot of people didn’t get to see and then share it with them is awesome.”

Dash camera video of the meteor flying through Michigan went viral. It was captured by Newschannel 3 videographer Zack Lawler. After posting it to Newschannel 3's website and social media channels, the video was shared by thousands across the country, and even broadcast by major networks nationally and internationally.

Lawler said he turned on his dash camera before heading out on an assignment to cover a fire.

“As I’m driving out to Battle Creek all of a sudden on 94 and Westnedge the sky lights up and goes!” Lawler said. “I was speechless, because I’m like what just happened? Like this is awesome!”

He posted the dash cam video to social media—at first getting a little local buzz.

“Someone from CBS national, CNN retweeted it and it rocketed,” Lawler said. “It’s my 15 minutes of social media fame.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, the video had nearly 2,000 likes on Twitter and almost 900 retweets. It has more than 70,000 views in less than 24 hours. Those numbers are still climbing.

“National Geographic — I about lost it when I saw my name in a National Geographic post,” Lawler said.

He explained video in every form, including a dash camera, is important to his work at Newschannel 3. That’s why he said he was prepared for the unexpected moment.

“We do our jobs every day. We don’t ever get recognition because we don’t expect it. That’s why we’re photographers. That’s why we’re behind the camera,” Lawler said.

Follow Franque Thompson on Twitter and on Facebook.

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