From a sorry saga to a happy ending

Published 7:15 am Monday, June 27, 2005

By Staff
National media attention is a powerful way to mobilize help.
Though some massive manhunts don't end happily - Laci Peterson or, so far, the search in Aruba for missing Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway - who couldn't help smiling at the news that Boy Scout Brennan Hawkins, 11, was found alive and well June 21 after surviving four days in the Utah wilderness?
Trained by his parents to avoid strangers, Brennan hid from rescuers in the northeastern Uinta mountains because "his biggest fear … was someone would steal him," his mom said June 23.
Speaking to reporters outside their yellow-frame house festooned with yellow balloons and welcome-home signs, Toby and Jody Hawkins said they taught Brennan and his four siblings to stay on the trail and avoid strangers if they ever became lost.
Brennan was found about noon Tuesday, five miles from the 530-acre Boy Scout camp in a national forest where he vanished Friday evening after working out on a climbing wall with a friend.
Searchers devoted the weekend to combing the east fork of the Bear River, 100 miles from Salt Lake City.
Defying searchers' expectations, Brennan hiked uphill and over a ridge to 9,400 feet and more than five miles into the mountains rather than staying in the river valley.
At night he assumed "midget mode," drawing up his legs and pulling his shirt over his knees.
The muddy boy was located by Forrest Nunley, a 43-year-old house painter on an ATV who was looking on his own, miles outside of search grids.
Brennan's miraculous rescue reminds us how the distress of one person and one family can intimately touch a nation's hearts with the 24-hour news cycle and instantly mobilize hundreds or thousands of volunteers to potentially make the difference between life and death.
Brennan's happy ending helps wash away the bitter aftertaste of the runaway bride crying wolf all the way to a $500,000 payday.
Jennifer Wilbanks, 32, of Georgia, tugged on heartstrings with her sorry saga, disappearing four days before her April 30 wedding. Her elaborate hoax saw her travel hundreds of miles on Greyhound buses while concocting an abduction story for police.
If only it ended there. But then Wilbanks and her fiance John Mason reportedly sold the movie rights to their story for $500,000 and sat for an interview with NBC's Katie Couric.
Wilbanks abused people's goodwill and added injury to insult by shamelessly cashing in on her criminal stunt.
But we will keep mobilizing in hopes of finding the Brennans so they may have homecomings to celebrate with their families.