Break the Chain Say Cheese!

Exclusive (9/19/2001) Many - including me - were sincerely surprised by the national show of support for a candlelight vigil on September 14, 2001 to honor those dead and missing following terrorist attacks on symbolic targets in Washington D.C. and New York City. It is perhaps that surprising response that led some hoaxter to create the following piece of drivel.

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

All,

At 10:30 EASTERN TIME.... 9:30 Central, 8:30 Mountain, 7:30 Pacific the U.S. has asked that everyone step out on their lawns tonight at 10:30 and light a candle. They will be taking a satellite picture of the U.S. and posting it on the news tomorrow morning.

Please pass this on to as many people as possible.

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

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Many recipients, remembering the shocking success of the previous effort (due in large part to President George W. Bush asking for a candlelight vigil to cap a "day of mourning), passed this one on in earnest. But some noticed a few holes in the request:

  • When is "tonight?"

  • Who is the source of this request?

  • The U.S. has asked...? That's a little vague, don't you think?

  • Isn't is still daylight on the west coast at 7:30?

  • Who is taking this picture?

  • Can candles even be seen from 400 miles up in space?

  • Wouldn't every electric light in the nation have to be turned off for this to work?

  • Where will it be posted? "The news" is just too vague.

As for when "tonight" is, references to this hoax have been traced as far back as Sunday, September 16. The note's lack of a date leads people to believe it is a new request when they receive it.

The question of source was addressed in later versions:

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

10:30 EASTERN TIME.... 9:30 Central, 8:30 Mountain, 7:30 Pacific

I just heard on the radio that the U.S. has asked that everyone step out on their lawns tonight at 10:30 and light a candle. They will be taking a satellite picture of the U.S. and posting it on the news tomorrow morning.

Please pass this on to as many people as possible.

- - -

Just announced on the radio ...

The U.S. has asked that everyone step out on their lawns tonight at 10:30 (10:30 EASTERN TIME.... 9:30 Central, 8:30 Mountain, 7:30 Pacific) and light a candle. They will be taking a satellite picture of the U.S. and posting it on the news tomorrow morning.

Please pass this on to as many people as possible.

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

It is possible that this was mentioned on the radio (as was the Sept. 14 request) by some overzealous DJs. But "the radio" is still far from a reliable source. To further lend credence to the request and to explain who would be taking the picture, following versions began to claim to be from NASA:

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

A formal request from NASA: 10:30 EASTERN TIME.... 9:30 Central, 8:30 Mountain, 7:30 Pacific NASA has asked that everyone step out on their lawns tonight at 10:30 and light a candle. They will be positioning a satellite to take a picture of the U.S. and posting it on the news tomorrow morning.

Please pass this on to as many people as possible.

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

Lest there be any more confusion: this is a hoax. There is no such picture to be taken tonight or any night. It would be nearly impossible to get such a picture anyway due to ambient and artificial lighting. If you want to light a candle in remembrance of those who died and those who are still missing, please do, but don't expect to see "a thousand points of light" on the news in the morning. Break this Chain.

What Do You Think?

Category: No Joke Too Obvious
References: None

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