LACERDA: Bad, balloon boy, bad

John LaCerda

I passed out on my couch before dinner to take a little siesta but awoke minutes later to the booming voice of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Various headlines flooded the screen, ranging from recent negotiations with Iran to health concerns for pregnant women with bad genetics. I was aghast at the topics of discussion, especially when Blitzer invited James Carville to offer his opinion on health care reform. Carville’s bobble head composure and whining tone almost caused me to return to my slumber when, suddenly, the conversation switched to a rather peculiar tale of a boy and a balloon.

The floating weather balloon had our nation gripped for hours, or at least for those that had access to daytime television. We watched in wonder and in horror as the giant mass of helium soared up into the clouds of Denver.

Flights were cancelled and delayed. The U.S. Air Force became involved. Local police forces created rescue plans. Even neighbors and friends offered their help and support.

The spectacle seemed so shocking. I pondered how the little boy, six-year-old Falcon Heene, could ever have climbed into such a contraption. Moreover, how could these parents allow such an event to occur in the first place? It just seemed so bizarre and tragic.

When the floating phony finally landed, we were relieved to find that young Falcon had been hiding in the attic all along, far from danger but close to fraud. Parents rejoiced,

friends celebrated and Blitzer gave a reassuring indication of the family’s surprise and happiness.

I, however, immediately questioned the validity of the Heenes’ statements. The whole ordeal seemed oddly false, but maybe I was just born with that innate sense of Sherlock Holmes-like detection.

Regardless, as the next few days unfolded, the balloon boy confessed some startling remarks. On Blitzer’s program, we heard Falcon admit “we did this for the show.” I further doubted the case when the boy vomited on live television and when the father pathetically attempted to deny the accusations of a hoax that led him to a style of acting adopted by the great Keanu Reeves.

On Saturday, the Larimer County’s Sheriff Office indicated that authorities had acquired new information from the family of Richard and Mayumi Heene after interrogating them for hours earlier in the day.

While the office did not identify specific charges, it said a Class 3 misdemeanor charge was possible, according to The Associated Press.

A penalty for this debacle should be of the highest degree. Thousands of dollars were wasted for personnel and emergency services, while flights were delayed and cancelled at Denver International Airport for the duration of balloon boy’s flight.

Furthermore, news coverage exhausted its resources on this hoax when it could have been focusing on more real and significant issues; I would have even enjoyed another Carville appearance.

It remains a disgrace that these parents could ever commit such a crime, a purely pathetic attempt at celebrity status and an embarrassment to our country.

It is a despicable testament of our nation’s character when the hottest story involves an attempt at fame, taking priority over stories about suicide bombings in Pakistan and foreclosures at homeless shelters in metropolitan areas.

The parents should receive heavy fines for their actions and garner no deals with television networks and media companies. The children are young and innocent, and thus should not be blamed, but dad and mom should know better as parents and as human beings. What did they expect to happen? What would they gain from all this?

The upcoming investigation will hopefully produce some answers, but the story of balloon boy remains a perfect tribute to our inherent effort to seek fame through fraud.


John LaCerda is a senior English major from Medfield, Mass. He can be reached at [email protected].