Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Falcon Heene Incident

What a day.

I'm sitting around the house trying to get up the oomph to go out in the cold when suddenly, there's breaking news on MSNBC: a helicopter is in hot pursuit of a giant flying-saucer-shaped balloon that accidentally came untethered and took off 10,000 feet in the air with a 6-year-old boy inadvertently aboard. Usually I manage to let tragic news stories wash off me like bourbon off a duck's back, but something about this one really got to me. The horror of the poor child, being that young and trapped inside a balloon that high up, being buffeted around by the winds, probably to eventually crash in the Colorado mountains... it made me sick to think about it.

So we're watching the story unfold, glued to our seats, in sympathy for this little boy trapped inside a balloon hurtling through the air, when the horrific announcement is made that that they think he may have actually fallen out of the balloon to his death somewhere along the way.

Sure enough, when the balloon finally makes its descent into a field, there's no boy inside and the National Guard is mobilized for a massive search for young Falcon Heene's body. A sickening end to a sad afternoon, seemingly.

But then, after all of that, it turns out the kid is alive and well and has been hiding in a box in the attic all afternoon. As of this writing no one's determined what the backstory is to this bizarre drama. And I haven't heard conclusively yet whether this was intended as some sort of weather-balloon science project (the Heene family are well-known storm chasers) or whether it really is an experimental aircraft as the media have speculated.

I've been a bit miffed at the coverage of the incident on both CNN and MSNBC, which I kept flipping back and forth between. Both came dangerously close to openly ridiculing the Heene family over their alleged belief in extraterrestrials, over their storm chasing hobby and their interest in science, and their having taken part in the reality show Wife Swap earlier this year. Apparently having an interest in science, weather, and UFOs brands you as a kook in Rick Sanchez' eyes. Me, I think this Heene family sound like my kind of people...

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