Teen’s memorial balloon had long trip to Alabama

Published 5:04 am Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ariel Brooks was born on the same day as her grandfather, Bobby Brooks. The elder Brooks was born on April 4, 1942. The younger was born on that date in the year 2000. But despite their 58-year age difference, their bond was deep.

Bobby Brooks passed from this life on Oct. 13, 2011. But the celebrations continued, and this year something remarkable happened.

“My pawpaw meant the world to me,” Ariel said. “Every year on our birthday we always did something together.

“After he passed away, we started doing things in memory of him. This year we decided to let balloons go at his grave.”

Ariel and all four of her siblings took part, and so there were five balloons released. Reportedly when Ariel let her balloon go she said, “Mama, I don’t think mine’s going anywhere.” But she was wrong.

The balloons were released on April 4, around 6:30 p.m. Amber Nichole Quilliams found Ariel’s balloon at around 12:30 p.m. on April 5, in Anniston, Ala. It had travelled 366 miles in less than a day.

“When we let the balloons go I really didn’t think anyone would find it and share it and try finding me,” Brooks said. “One morning while I was at work, I happened to check my Facebook and saw where people were tagging the post to my page. When Amber found it, she shared it on Facebook and it took some time to get shared back to my wall. When I found out that Amber had found it and shared it until it got back to me, I was excited to know that it had been found in Alabama.”

Quilliams said that when she first spotted the balloon it was still well inflated.

“When I first got a glimpse of the balloon my initial thoughts were, well some one staying here had a birthday this week, and a balloon wasn’t thrown in the trash,” she said. “After I actually looked at it a second time, I noticed it had written words on it!

“When I realized that what I thought was a young child had released this in her Pawpaw’s memory, I felt my heart sink a little, meaning I was fighting back tears and I was also smiling from ear to ear. My immediate reaction was to take a picture and share with my Facebook friends in hopes of finding the family that had sent this up in his memory.”

Quilliams asked her friends to share her message, and more than a thousand of them did as requested. She posted at 4:59 p.m. on April 5, and Shanna Brooks, Ariel’s mother, responded at 8:15 a.m. on April 6. Amber found Ariel less than 24 hours after her post.

“When I found out the Facebook post had reached Pine, Louisiana and her mother had commented I was so happy,” Quilliams said. “Ariel reached out to me and I found out she was older than I had imagined. It was a great pleasure to know she was happy the balloon had been found, and I got a lot of great feedback on what I had done!

“It’s not everyday that you find something so meaningful to others. It touched me in a way I can’t explain. I’m just thankful I found the writing captured the photo and posted the post on social media.

“I would like to add a huge thank you to everyone that shared this post all over the world. It meant a great deal to me to find Ariel and you all helped me do that.”

Quilliams was not the only one whose Facebook page was blowing up. Brooks had received 3,602 comments on the subject, as of Monday morning.