Column: America needs another balloon boy

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

It seems as though every bit of news that has come out in the last three months has been bad. In these dark days, America needs something in the news that unites that can unite and fascinate us. American needs a hero.

America needs another balloon boy.

For those who do not recall, for one glorious day in October of 2009, there was a marvelous and strange story that captivated and then baffled the entire country.

It began in the skies over Fort Collins, Colorado, where a homemade weather balloon took off from the yard of Richard and Mayumi Heene. The large, silver object was strange enough on its own, but Richard alerted authorities that his six-year-old son Falcon may have been inside the balloon when it took off.

Soon live footage of the balloon’s flight was carried on nearly every news station in the nation and millions of people followed Falcon’s flight over rural Colorado.

The balloon was pursued by National Guard helicopters and plenty of forces on the ground as it climbed to as high as 7,000 feet and fell low enough to almost hit power lines.

After a 90-minute flight during which the balloon traveled nearly 50 miles, it settled down gently in a field about 12-miles north of the Denver International Airport. But when authorities rushed to the downed balloon, Falcon was nowhere to be found.

He was back home in Fort Collins, hiding in the attic of the family garage.

Later that night, the family was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer live on CNN, where young Falcon made a mistake. When asked why he did not come out of the garage when he heard his parents calling his name, he said to his parents, “you guys said that, um, we did this for the show.”

Many believed that the entire event was a hoax, a publicity stunt for the Heenes. In fact, Richard and Mayumi had appeared on the reality show “Wife Swap” and were attempting to pitch their own reality show at the time of the incident. Richard was also an avid believer in aliens and UFOs, which he discussed on his “Wife Swap” appearances.

Richard plead guilty to a charge of attempting to influence a public servant. He said he only did so to prevent Mayumi, a Japanese citizen, from being deported. The Heenes continue to deny that the incident was a hoax.

Nearly 11 years later, this story is still so enthralling and so very bizarre. It had everything: a homemade weather balloon, aliens, a child named Falcon, frenzied media coverage, Wolf Blitzer and the phrase “balloon boy.”

America needs something like this to happen again. Maybe it can involve a homemade submarine and a child named Parakeet. But the details are not important. We need another publicity-hungry family to orchestrate a hoax involving their oddly-named child, and we need it now.


Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]