It started with a Facebook event page. Not an uncommon occurrence in 2019.

Organizers are calling their event, “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” and their plan is to “see them aliens” at the top secret Air Force facility within the Nevada Test and Training Range. But although it may have started as an internet joke, Air Force officials aren’t laughing, at least publicly. In fact, they have issued a warning. Don’t go there.

Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews told The Washington Post Friday that officials are aware of the event, scheduled for Sept. 20.

“[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” McAndrews said.

More than 540,000 people around the world Friday marked themselves as “going” to the 3 a.m. event. By Tuesday evening, that number had grown to 1.4 million, with another 1.3 million indicating that they are interested.

The event posting has also spawned thousands of memes and battle plans. And while most people seem to be taking it as the joke it was intended to be, hotels and campgrounds in the area are booking up, Forbes reported Tuesday.

Many still regard the government’s few statements about Area 51 with skepticism.

Rumors that the government uses the facility in Lincoln County, Nevada, to hide extraterrestrial life and unidentified flying objects have been a part of the social fabric for years.

In the early days of the Cold War, the skies over the continental U.S. were flush with sightings of objects that led many Americans to look to the stars for answers. The Air Force itself began Project Blue Book in 1952 as a systematic study of unidentified flying object sightings. The project was charged with scientifically analyzing UFO data to determine whether UFOs were a national security threat.

Then in 1989, self-proclaimed physicist Bob Lazar gave a now-famous television interview in which he claimed to have worked on reverse engineering extraterrestrial technology at Area 51 and to have seen U.S. government documents describing alien involvement in human affairs over the past 10,000 years.

Theories of concealed aliens were further fueled in 2017 when the Pentagon confirmed a $22 million government program, begun in 2007, to analyze “anomalous aerospace threats,” The Washington Post reported.

While people around the world continue to offer their own ideas on how to achieve the September “storm,” the Air Force is remaining mum on exactly what steps it would take to repel a non-alien invasion. But it won’t be caught unprepared.

“The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets,” McAndrews said.

Ariana is a reporting intern for Military Times. Her past reporting took her to London, China, South Africa and Chicago. Along with her current beat at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism reporting on education from Capitol Hill, Ariana is a contributing writer and social media manager for Clifton Merchant Magazine.

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