The Story from American Public Media interviewed Betty Brown, an eighty-five year old woman from California, on their June 2007 show that aired the day the movie Amelia came out.  The search for Earhart was still ongoing, and someone involved with it got wind of a shortwave radio transcription Betty had made when she was 15 and Amelia Earhart had just gone down.  She was listening to the radio with pencil and paper (she copied down the words to the songs so she could sing them later) when she started getting piecy in-and-out voices, Amelia and her navigator, calling for help and cursing, reading coordinates out of the log, even sending some instructions about private papers Amelia apparently didn’t want to survive her.  Can you imagine.  Betty wrote down nonsensical / insane rants of the navigator and when Amelia was crying.  They broadcasted for three hours before the signal cut out.

Betty was home alone, but when her father got home she showed it to him and he took it immediately to the coast guard, who told him curtly that they had everything under control.  When the real search began, he didn’t go back — hurt pride — but Betty kept this transcript for sixty years without anyone really being interested.  I can’t really imagine hearing something this important and having it repulsed by whatever authorities.

Apparently several people have come forward saying they heard Amelia on the shortwave, too, and I guess a lot of them have been discredited, but this, we understand, was legitimate.  Betty said in the interview that it was such a horrible feeling of powerlessness.  Girl-child in the thirties home alone, listening to people dying on the radio, as if she was in one of those dreams where you hear something bad in the next room but there aren’t any doors, aren’t any windows.  Amelia, a celebrity on such a large scale, a person of such strength and courage, was saying “son of a bitch, son of a bitch” and crying on the radio.  Betty said that she decided that she wanted to become a pilot at that point, since it felt like something she could do for Amelia, like all she could do.  And she did.

Now Betty’s transcript is in the hands of a non-moron and the search is perhaps over, or practically over.

Stories of vindication, redemption or some kind of restitution that have gone the long way of an entire life mean so much, to me.  The familiar raw tragedy of Amelia’s story is balance in my soul with the story of Betty, who could do nothing but only sit and write down the words.  Even after high school, even getting her pilot’s license, making a family, growing old, she waited and finally the time came.  It came such that she’s internationally recognized (in certain circles of course), that her own voice is speaking on our radios.  That she avoided any bitterness is a surprise to me, who can be full of bitternesses at my own lack of…petty vindications, little redemptions.

As I have heard from the beginning, as I hear all the time, patience is the thing.  Something about patience must smooth the way for the correct thing, the accurate acknowledgment, the offered apology.  Something about this must be true, if not everything.

Josh, thanks for sending this!

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