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The Unbelievably True, Tragic Tale Of A Traveling Balloon – Dec. 13, 2012
by Leah Carey
Last Saturday, David Greenwood was going about his regular chores and being a good neighbor by picking up a bit of trash on the edge of his field. Little did he know that so-called trash would turn out to be part of a much bigger story.
“I looked out on the edge of the tree line and this balloon was laying there,” Greenwood said. “I said to [my brother-in-law], ‘Let’s grab that trash and take care of it.’ We weren’t paying any attention to it until we got back up to the shop.”
When they laid the balloon out, Greenwood discovered that it was covered with writing. “It’s got names and writing and a phone number on it,” he said. “We saw it said, ‘Happy 2nd birthday, Angel.’ And there’s a phone number and email address for Shannon Hensley, so we called her and left a message.”
Greenwood and Hensley connected by phone on Monday, when he learned that Angel was Hensley’s baby niece whose entire family had been swept away in a tornado earlier this year.
“This was back in March, the tornadoes that went through in Indiana, it swept the whole family away, all five of them,” said Greenwood. “The mom and dad were 20 and 21 with three kids. They found them in a field. This little girl Angel survived for a little while and died several days later.”
“She was pretty emotional on the phone,” said Greenwood.
But Hensley was also excited that someone had found her balloon and called, the second time she’s gotten a call back from a balloon. “[Angel’s] brother, his birthday was in October and they let some balloons go then,” said Greenwood. “Somebody called from around the Cleveland area and she thought that was a ways away. When I told her we were 15 minutes from New Hampshire and a half hour from Canada, she was pretty amazed.”
Hensley told him that she had spoken with her family in New Pekin, Ind., a half hour before the storm hit. “They knew the tornadoes were coming through. She called up to find out what the weather was doing and they said it was okay, it was just raining. She said a half hour later she got a phone call saying they were all gone.”
Hensley, contacted by The Caledonian-Record on Tuesday, said that she will continue sending out balloons on important days for her family. “It happened in March and we done it for Easter. We put five of them off. I told them – I said on any birthday, any holiday, we’ll let them off.”
Although she still gets very emotional when talking about her family, she said that sending the balloons helps her to feel a little more peaceful. She’s also grateful for all of the local support she and her family have received. “There was so many people that donated. They really do care.”
Hensley released the balloon in Roanoke, Ind., on Monday, Dec. 3. Greenwood found the balloon in St. Johnsbury on Saturday, Dec. 8. “The first ones we let off ended up in Ohio. Angel’s ended up in Vermont and I thought that was just so awesome, that far away.”
“I don’t know how long a balloon takes to get from Indiana,” chuckled Greenwood, while acknowledging that it’s a good thing he found it when he did. “It was right on the tree line, it would have been covered when it snows.”
Greenwood said that he’s happy he found the balloon and he plans to keep it. “It’s a sad story,” he said.
Sending balloons flying into the air is particularly appropriate for Hensley because, as she says, “I got five angels with me now.”
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