By Larry Briscoe
“I love the sentiment,” said Sandy Hook Elementary School Assistant Principal Cathy Mazzariello this week about the response to a balloon recovered by a firefighter near Quinlan.
Quinlan firefighter Curtis Randall found a balloon before Christmas bearing the first names of the 20 first graders killed in the Dec. 14 shooting tragedy at the Newtown, Conn., school. A message attached to the balloon stated their hearts were broken and asked for prayer.
Randall said in a story published in The Quinlan-Tawakoni News, “I want to let Connecticut know their hearts touched Texas.” More than 47,000 people logged onto the newspaper’s Facebook page the week the story was printed.
Although Mazzariello said the balloon was not released from their school, she theorized in an email Monday to the newspaper, “It may be possible that another district released those as a sign of support.”
Randall’s statement about touching hearts was fulfilled. Mazzariello said of support expressed, “We are however sending our heartfelt appreciation.”
Randall discovered the Mylar balloon in his front yard a short distance from W.H. Ford High School. The balloon had a cross on the front, and an orange latex balloon was attached as well as the note.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Tom Bradshaw said Monday a balloon trip from Connecticut to Texas was theoretically possible but unlikely. He said the balloon would have to ascend above the jet stream at approximately 50,000 feet.
Bradshaw said the wind and atmospheric direction typically follow the earth direction of rotation that is from west to east. However the direction changes above the jet stream to east to west.
As an example, Bradshaw said a balloon released in Alabama was recovered last week by the Collin County Radio Club, demonstrating the east to west trajectory was possible.
Curtis said Monday when he heard of Mazzariello’s response, “I’m glad they found out, and they know we were touched.”
The firefighter for Quinlan and Tawakoni South fire departments said he regretted some did not believe. Although the many comments left on the Facebook page were supportive and positive, a very few expressed negative reactions.
“I guess the non-believers don’t understand the situation,” Curtis said. He added that he was “really glad we heard from them.”