Video of suspected Chinese spy balloon over Kansas captured by Sabetha resident

Dave Remmers

Dave Remmers’ encounter with the balloon — yes, that balloon — began with a call about 8:45 a.m. from a friend.

“She called me up and said, ‘Look out to the north, that Chinese spy balloon is visible,’” Remmers told The Star on Friday.

The Sabetha resident went outside and there it was. In the daylight. Over Kansas.

Remmers, the athletic director at Sabetha Middle School, grabbed a 300mm spotting scope, attached his phone to it and began shooting in his backyard. What emerged was video of the balloon, with some kind of instrument hanging from the bottom, moving across the piercing blue sky.

By just after 3 p.m., Remmers’ video had made its way on to the Twitter feed of U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall.

Even to the naked eye, Remmers said it was “very obvious” it was a balloon. “You could kind of see something underneath it but there was no mistaking that it was something definitely different,” he said.

Less than 10 miles from the Kansas-Nebraska border, Remmers and other Sabetha residents were likely some of the first Kansans to spot the balloon this morning as it spent Friday floating across northeast Kansas and then Missouri, after coming south from Montana overnight. With each passing minute, the balloon — and the international incident it represents — became a bigger and bigger story.

About 11:30 a.m. the National Weather Service in Kansas City said the balloon had been spotted from its Pleasant Hill office. Pilots in the Kansas City area reported sightings.

By 1:30 p.m., it was moving across Columbia. By 4 p.m. it had moved into the St. Louis area.

Along the way there were jokes.

“Waiting for Andrew Bailey to send China a strongly-worded letter. #poptheballoon,” Jefferson City-based attorney Chuck Hatfield wrote on Twitter, referring to Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey.

And demands for action.

“Since the federal government refuses to take a stand, I hereby call on you as the executive leader of the Show Me State to show the rest of the nation how we treat adversaries of our republic that breach our borders without permission,” Missouri state Sen. Nick Schroer, a St. Charles County Republican, wrote in a letter to Gov. Mike Parson.

Others just took it in stride.

“Just me, hanging out in a Wildwood parking lot watching the Chinese spy balloon pass overhead. No biggie,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger tweeted.

U.S. officials said it was a spy balloon; China said it was weather-related. President Joe Biden has decided, for now, not to shoot it down amid concern from military officials that a strike could create a debris field that puts people on the ground at risk.

So for now it floats, and people like Remmers watch.

“I’m a God-fearing American and I love our country, but I just wish our government would cut out all the speculation,” Remmers said. “Just tell us what’s going on.”

Republicans have jumped on the Biden administration, demanding answers and action. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri wants the Senate Homeland Security Committee to investigate. Marshall, a Kansas Republican, said Biden “must protect the sovereignty of the U.S. whether it’s our airspace or the southern border.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the balloon “does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.”

She added that “we are tracking closely and keeping all options on the table.”

Back in Sabetha, the balloon is the talk of the town. Remmers said with China claiming it’s weather related and the United States saying it’s a spy balloon, “somewhere in between is the truth.”

He said he just wants the truth.

“It’s with everything, not just this. That’s how I feel when I see something like that,” Remmers said as he prepared to leave to keep score at high school games Friday night.