Falcon and the Runaway Balloon.
It was a bigger story than it ever should have been and it held the world’s attention for much too long. It captured our hearts and imaginations, and for a while we forgot the war in Afghanistan, the angry health care debates in Washington, the state of the economy.
But it was all, so obviously now, a hoax, a stunt, a cheap sleazy bid for media attention that exploited children and the people who care about them.
Charges will be filed, it was announced this morning — possibly nothing more severe than the misdemeanor of filing a false report. If there is any justice, however, the charges ultimately will reach felony status and include jail time and hefty fines. At the very least, rather than profiting in any way from their stunt, the Heenes should be billed (or sued) for the time and effort expended by the FAA and Denver International Airport to avert an air disaster, all area law enforcement and rescue personnel who turned their attention to finding Falcon Heene, the 9-1-1 personnel who belatedly got the call, and any volunteer organizations who turned out to assist with their personnel and expertise. There will be no compensation for the individuals who helped just because they thought a little boy was in trouble, no compensation for the millions who watched, worried, and prayed while the balloon drifted over Colorado, and no compensation for the media who were, at least a little bit, less concerned with a scoop than with helping to find a little boy.
Sadly, if Richard Heene escapes jail, there will probably be many follow-up TV appearances and “why did you do it?” questions — giving him, after all, the publicity he was seeking. And jail or not, there will be the inevitable lucrative book deal — It Was a Hoax and Wasn’t It Cool? or maybe Fun Things to Do: A Dad’s Primer for Kids.
Go to jail, Richard Heene. Go directly to jail. Do not pass GO. Do not collect one red cent!