Illinois Memory Flies to New York

Helium-filled balloon traveled over 800 miles in one day

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    NEWSLETTERS

    In this modern era of technology, a small message made its way from Illinois to New York via balloon.

    In the tiny town of Cherry, Illinois, residents' memories disappeared into thin air ...

    ...and reappeared in the state of New York.

    On November 14, the village of Cherry commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Cherry coal mine disaster, which killed 259 men and boys (as young as 11 years old). It was one of the deadliest mine accidents in U.S. history.

    A new monument was dedicated to those who died, and 259 helium-filled balloons were released into the air, each carrying a tag with a miner's name written on it.

    The morning after the balloons were released, Zachary Rogers and his daughter Amanda found one of the balloons in Sackets Harbor, New York—818 miles away.

    At that rate, the balloon would have had to travel more than 34 miles per hour.

    Zachary's wife, Sarah, began researching online.

    "When he found it on the 15th, I got right online. I typed in 'Cherry Mine Disaster' and all this stuff started popping up," she said, reports the La Salle News Tribune.

    "The more I got reading about it, it was such an interesting story, it just sucked me right in," Sarah said.

    Sarah eventually got in touch with city officials. Of the 259 balloons, the Rogers' is the only one that's been found and reported.

    "The part that ran through my mind was how many people died, because it was such a small town," Sarah said. "I know if we lost that many people, it would just devastate the whole community."

    At the 2000 census, the population of Cherry was 509.

    Matt Bartosik is a Chicago native and a social media sovereign.