Amelia Earhart (1897-1937)
Clearly the magic of the Amelia Earhart is the mystery of her disappearance. While we are reasonably sure she met with a tragic end, but since we don’t know exactly it becomes easy to dream that she may still be out there, or to imagine that she secretly used the flight as an opportunity to start a new life and that she has been secretly living under an assumed name. Those things seem crazy, but they happen even with celebrities whose deaths aren’t mysterious. Elvis died in 1977, but as a kid we constantly heard about people who had seen him or believed him to be alive. The jokes about it probably outpaced the true believers’ accounts, but it was still a thing. Earhart’s was even more pronounced since she had disappeared entirely. People as recently as 25 years ago would claim she was alive, but her age if she had been alive was proving a problem with the narrative.
What is my point? I’m not sure. Surely it’s really just another example of how hard loss is for our human brains to process. Why should we cling to the idea that a person we never knew must have survived a thing they clearly did not, unless we do so to tell ourselves that sometimes people are out there in spite of logic or evidence. Maybe that makes it easier to deal with them not being in our lives anymore.
Amelia Earhart would be 121 if she was still alive, so I think we can safely say as a society that she is no longer with us. But she is really. In our efforts to hold onto her physically, she was elevated beyond herself and became an even greater icon that she might otherwise have been. There’s no way to know what she would have done with the rest of her life, but she certainly made a name for herself by not having the opportunity to live it. That’s weird, but kind of wonderful.
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