November 1, 2022 by Catherine Stack
Billy first spotted the green glass bottle floating above a barge. It piqued his curiosity because it appeared to contain a letter.
“I always look for stuff that's unique — driftwood or anything. I told my buddy, 'there's a message in this bottle!’”
Billy retrieved the floating bottle, then gently removed the enclosed letter with sticks. He allowed the wilted and decaying paper to dry out. Once dried, he and his boss, Brad Babb, attempted to reconstruct the remaining pieces of the letter, written in the handwriting of a child. They could decipher the name, the year and the location: Dahl; 1989; Oxford, Mississippi.
Touched by the letter and the child’s adventurous spirit, Billy and Brad set out to return the keepsake to its rightful owner.
“It really just fueled us to go and say, ‘let's go find this guy’ cause this is kind of a kindred spirit,” said Brad.
Billy and Brad stayed late that day to contact local schools, searching for leads. That search didn’t result in a match. However, the note remained on their minds and they decided to continue their search using social media. They posted a picture of the note on Facebook, which instantly generated interest. Others shared the story widely, and it took on a life of its own.
The news of the mysterious message in a bottle soon made its way to Eric and Melanie Dahl. The couple had an instinct that the letter was composed by their late son, Brian. They recalled that, when he was a sixth grader, he was assigned a creative class project that required him to write a message and place it in a bottle.
The family contacted Billy and arranged to verify and retrieve the letter. Eric and Melanie and their other son, Chris, traveled 200 miles from their home to the shipbuilder’s office. Melanie brought childhood photos of Brian playing baseball, fishing and cycling to share with Billy and Brad. The family could hardly believe that the message in a bottle had found its way back to them 33 years later. They carefully examined the bottle and read the note Brian wrote as a child, which made them smile.
The family expressed gratitude for the men’s kindness and diligence in tracking them down. The surprise offered the family great comfort after losing Brian at age 29.
“Knowing that something he wrote is connecting strangers, that really helps,” shared Eric. He said his son always had an ability to inspire connections with people.
“I think a lot of time we take for granted how small steps can bring so much happiness and joy to other people,” said Brad.
“He's with them still,” said Billy. “I think that's what the note meant when we found it. To let his parents know that he was watching over them as well.”
“Love never goes away,” said Eric, in tears.
PassItOn and The Foundation For A Better Life consider Billy Mitchell and Brad Babb heroes. Their actions are a great example of the value of caring. Billy and Brad’s act of kindness reunited a family with a treasured keepsake and gave them a connection to their late son. Please help us celebrate these everyday heroes by sharing their heartwarming story.
Watch video here: https://youtu.be/b0nIryWr1r0
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