Family Miraculously Finds Late Son’s Message in a Bottle From 1989
Finding a message in a bottle seems like a scene out of a movie or romantic novel — yet that's exactly what happened to one family in Mississippi who were reunited with a message their late son wrote 33 years ago during a school project.
Eric Dahl, wife Melanie and son Chris traveled roughly 200 miles from Oxford, Miss., to Vicksburg, where they met the shipyard workers who found the bottle while working on the Yazoo River, according to USA Today.
The bottle was reportedly still intact and had remained sealed after three decades spent in the water.
"I'm always that way," salvage diver Billy Mitchell, who initially spotted the green bottle floating in the river, told the outlet. "I always look for stuff that's unique — driftwood or anything... I told my buddy, I said, 'There's a message in this bottle!'"
Out of curiosity, Mitchell, with the help of some "shish kebab sticks," fished the bottle out of the water. He gently extracted the paper from the bottle and let it dry. Much of the note was destroyed, but with the help of his boss, Brad Babb, the two worked to reconstruct what was left of it.
The pair were able to decipher the last name Dahl; the year 1989; the location of Oxford; the words "please" and "thank you"; and the phrase "call or phone," all written in a child's handwriting.
"We're all kids at heart really. We could all envision ourselves as that 11-year-old boy," Babb said. "It really just fueled us to go and say, 'Let's go find this guy,' cause this is kind of a kindred spirit where, 'Would I want somebody to find me? Yes I would.'"
The two men kept the torn note in a safe place and got to work trying to find its owner, even calling nearby school districts for leads. Eventually taking to social media, they posted about the note on their company's Facebook page, where it went viral thanks to countless shares.
The note eventually reached the Dahl family, who over the summer met with the shipyard workers to inspect the message.
The note was written by Eric and Melanie's son Brian, who passed away after an accident at age 29.
"One thing that jumps out at me is an 11-year-old boy saying 'please," Eric told USA TODAY. "Knowing that something he wrote is connecting strangers, that really helps ... He was victorious in his life because of the relationships he established, the bonds with other people. And he continues to inspire connections."
As an added surprise, the shipyard crew took the Dahl family out on a tugboat to the exact location where the bottle was retrieved.
The message in a bottle was part of Brian's 6th grade class project.
In 1989, Brian and his classmates wrote individual notes and then launched their bottles into Mississippi's Tallahatchie River. Brian's note was found an estimated 200 miles from where it was first placed in the water.
"We had a field trip. We dropped our bottles in the water, and for many years we heard nothing," Brian's former teacher Martha Burnett told the outlet. "Who would ever have imagined this would happen? I think it brings him back to life in a way."