A rambunctious 6-year-old boy had climbed into a homemade helium balloon, the anchors announced gravely. Now he was floating so prettily 7,000 feet above Colorado, toward the heavens, at the mercy of the winds.
For three hours on a workaday Thursday, a mesmerized and helpless America watched this shiny silvery disc spin slowly against a brilliant blue sky with puffy white clouds. As it tipped this way and that, emergency vehicles trailed the balloon over two counties and 50 miles. The Air Force was alerted. The Federal Aviation Administration grounded planes. A Black Hawk chopper flew in close, blades slashing, to create a downwash to defeat a contraption that looked like a giant birthday party balloon.