These Michigan women found messages in a bottle from day before 9/11. Now they’re looking for the authors.

Posted at 12:56 PM, May 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-06 14:56:49-04

FENNVILLE, Mich. - A mother and daughter stumbled upon a message in a bottle from just one day before the world changed forever during a weekly beach walk along Lake Michigan.

“We always walk between these two parks right here because there’s always a lot of litter washed up," Amy Gasaway said.

Gasaway and her daughter Amanda Butler call themselves "beachcombers." They enjoy searching for beach glass, driftwood and other treasures on the beach at West Side County Park.

During one of their beach walks, the pair made an amazing discovery.

“As we were going through the debris, I was using one of the driftwood pieces," Gasaway said. "I kinda caught this yellow bottle top."

It was a Pepsi bottle, but inside it was something that let the women know this was more than just a piece of trash.

“It had a nice ‘Open me’ sign in it," Butler said. "So, as we got in to open it, we found a class project for an AP class of English out of Clayton, Indiana.”

Inside the Pepsi bottle were three letters. The first was written by a teacher named Diane Flint at Cascade High School in Clayton, Indiana explaining she had her Honors English students write letters and put them in a bottle, hoping they would be found and someone would write them back. The other two letters were written by Flint's students.

As Amanda and Amy were reading the two letters inside written by then 15-year-old boys Zachary Catlin and John Thomas, they noticed the date they were written: September 10, 2001.

“I’m sure they had no clue whatsoever how the world was about to change in front of them," Gasaway said.

Catlin wrote that he wanted to be a geologist when he grew up. Thomas wrote about how he liked to play guitar and sleep.

“It really makes you wonder, you know, what these young men have gone through since then," Gasaway said. “There’s been a lot of changes since 9/11, since they wrote these.”

Now, their mission is to find Catlin and Thomas to see how the last 18 years have been for them.

“We’re also curious at how many of them came back from their project, you know?" Gasaway said. "Is this maybe one of the last few out there? Were there every any found, you know? We do have a couple questions for them.”

WXMI is working with Gasaway and Butler to get in touch with the men who wrote the letters, along with their high school teacher. The women said they want to give their letters back to them along with some other treasures they've found on their beach walks.