06/11/2012 05:23 pm ET

Amelia Earhart, Found and Lost

THERE was a picture of Amelia Earhart in the newspaper. Actually, it was in this newspaper. I read the accompanying article while riding on a train from New Haven to New York when I was in my mid-20s. Although I had graduated a few years earlier, I was still living in the town where I’d gone to college. New Haven was cheap, and book reviews paid money back then. This was in the early ’90s. The train was quiet. No one had a cellphone. The article in the newspaper said that a search party believed it had found a piece of Earhart’s plane on an atoll in the Pacific. And maybe a piece of her shoe.

I didn't know much about Amelia Earhart, but the idea of her surviving on a desert island, even if only for a little while, appealed to me, sang to me, waved furiously to me from a great distance. Perhaps this was because I felt at the time as if I were flying hopelessly around the world and searching for land, longing for one of those islands of stability some of us keep looking for in our 20s, a braceleted wrist held up to the face, hand shielding our eyes from the harsh sun of adulthood, not realizing that we will have to build that island for ourselves. Whatever the reason, I was certainly not the first person to be fascinated by Earhart's disappearance. Nor the last. This July 2 it will be 75 years since she vanished while attempting to circumnavigate the globe, and people are still wondering what happened to her, still compelled by the mystery - Was she a spy? Was she captured by the Japanese? Did she sink or survive? - still searching for her shoe.

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