Pity begins to surface for family in balloon boy saga
October 26, 2009
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Pity the family at the center of the Balloon Boy spectacle? In Fort Collins, some folks are starting to feel a bit sorry for the much-maligned Heene family, accused of concocting a hoax about a boy carried away by an out-of-control flying saucer.
There was a bouquet of flowers and a stack of cards outside the home of Richard and Mayumi Heene on Monday. The couple reported their 6-year-old son Falcon had been carried away by a homemade helium balloon Oct. 15; he was later found hiding in an attic at the family home.
Authorities say the Heenes caused a public panic when they allegedly knew he was safe in their home. Since then, public condemnation of the family has been brutal. Family members have spent their days waiting be arrested while scurrying to avoid news photographers camped outside.
People have called the Heenes unfit parents, attention hogs and worse.
It was enough to inspire two women to call on neighbors to show a little compassion by encouraging people to leave kind notes and flowers in their yard. By late afternoon, a pile of note cards lay on the front porch, along with a single bouquet of flowers wrapped in purple paper and a handmade abstract painting.
The painter, 17-year-old Mike McClure, said he’s never met the Heenes but started feeling sorry for them after hearing vicious rumors about the fame-seeking family.
“I’m not saying I agree with what they did, but everyone has mistakes in their lives and needs to be forgiven,” McClure said.
Most of the pity was directed at Falcon and the Heene children. On Monday afternoon, a girl who didn’t want to give her name dropped off a pile of cards signed by students at her middle school. She placed the cards on the front porch and left without knocking on the door.
“I just feel sorry for the kids at this point. Who doesn’t?” said 34-year-old Kelly Notafrancesco, who didn’t stop at ther house.
Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden has said that the Heene parents both will face charges including conspiracy and false reporting, though they hadn’t been arrested by Monday. The sheriff says the Heenes staged the hoax in hopes of landing a deal for a reality TV show.
The balloon saga was starting to chafe on folks in Fort Collins who want the story – and the phalanx of reporters and photographers – to go away.
“What is the deal with this?” asked Linda Slack of nearby Loveland, waiting outside a nearby hair salon. “He didn’t go on his roof and start shooting at neighbors here. This is all too much.”
But that doesn’t mean everyone is ready to forgive.
“A lot of things on the news are blown out of proportion,” said Ron Quinn, 64, an electrician in Fort Collins. “But at the same time, I can’t say I feel sorry for them.”