And because I wrote a book about Amelia Earhart, friends, family, and sometimes people I don’t even know send me links to news articles, newspaper clippings, and any sort of Earhart trivia they discover. I’ve even been asked to be part of a podcast (Chasing Earhart) that’s exploring the various theories surrounding Earhart’s disappearance. So with the 80th anniversary of Amelia’s world flight and the buzz about a recently discovered photo, it’s been a busy week for my inbox.
When I was writing Miss E., I’d get nervous whenever new news came out about clues to Earhart’s disappearance. Toward the end, I felt like I was in a race. What was going to happen first? A conclusive Earhart discovery or me finishing this book? Not to give too much away, but part of the plot really depends on Earhart’s disappearance and there being a mystery to be solved. So I wrote fast, and so far there’s still a mystery.
People like mysteries, and people like solving them. That’s why there’s a research expedition to Gardner Island happening right now. They’ve even brought bone sniffing dogs to try to locate remains. A couple years ago, there was excitement over several a new discoveries. A old photo had been found that showed what some thought looked like landing gear submerged off Gardner Island. Then there were the bones that had been found, measured, and lost. Decades later a scientist compared those measurements to photos of Earhart and concluded that they could be hers. Now there’s another old photo that some claim is proof that Earhart survived and was captured by the Japanese.
But here’s what I think.
I remember reading about Amelia Earhart when I was in school. I was fascinated. All of the other stuff I’d read in my history book had an end. Chapters ended - we were done with that part of history and moved on to the next one. Wars ended. Thank goodness! We memorized the dates explorers and presidents died. It was history. Everything ended. Except Amelia Earhart.
Amelia Earhart’s story didn’t have an end, because we didn’t really know what that ending was. So there was mystery and excitement, there was a question mark waiting for imagination to fill in the blank. Anything could have happened to her - lost in the ocean, stranded on an island, captured by the Japanese, spying for the Americans, living under an assumed identity in New Jersey, or maybe even hiding herself and her plane on a farm in Northern California for decades and helping some high school kid sort out her feelings about the Vietnam war. Did I mention I wrote a book about this?
And if that’s the case, there can still be a little boy or girl in school who opens a textbook or checks a book out of the library and thinks, “This isn’t history. This is still happening.”
That’s my hope for Amelia Earhart.