The authors of the letters were unaware of how greatly the world would change just after the sun came up the next morning

By Jason Duaine Hahn
May 08, 2019 09:27 PM
Message in a bottle
Credit: Fox12 WXMI

A mother and daughter walking along Lake Michigan found messages that were written the day before one of the most consequential moments in history.

Amy Gasaway and her daughter, Amanda Butler, routinely take strolls along the sand of Lake Michigan near Grand Rapids, according to FOX 17. The two have a habit of combing through the scenery for little trinkets they can take home, such as beach glass and driftwood.

But on one recent walk, the two came across something truly out of the ordinary.

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

What they found hidden along the beach was a Pepsi bottle with a sign reading “open me” inside.

“So, as we got in to open it,” Butler explained, “we found a class project for an AP class of English out of Clayton, Indiana.”

The project included three letters, the first written by an Honors English teacher named Diane Flint at Cascade High School in Clayton, Indiana, according to CBS. In her letter, Flint explained that two of her students had written notes to place in the bottle in the hopes that someone would send them a message back.

The students, Zachary Catlin and John Thomas, were both 15 years old at the time, they explained in the letters. Catlin spoke about his dreams of becoming a geologist, while Thomas wrote about how he loved to play the guitar and sleep.


As Butler and Gasaway read their messages, they soon noticed the date they were written: September 10, 2001, a day before the 9/11 attacks.

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

The World Trade Center on 9/11
| Credit: Robert Giroux/Getty

The morning after the students penned their letters and tossed the bottle containing them into the waters of Lake Michigan, nearly 3,000 people would perish in attacks orchestrated in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, and forever changed the course of history for America and countless nations around the world.

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

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Now the mother-daughter duo want to track down the former students in the hopes they can give them the letters back, and some of the treasures they have found along the beach in Michigan.

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