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Message in a Bottle Reunites Family With Their Late Son

Updated: Sep 5, 2022

Brian Dhal was was 11 years old in 1989 when he wrote the letter, popped it in a bottle, and dropped it into Mississippi’s Talahatchie River.

Message in a bottle on a beach

Passing away at 29, Brian was a cyclist who beat cancer, but then died in an accident at home. Recently, a pair of Mississippi River salvage divers found the message in a bottle that has briefly brought back to life a dearly departed son who died more than three decades ago.

It was an ordinary salvage trip on the Yazoo River that brought a message from an 8th grader named Brian into the hands of Billy Mitchell and Brad Babb, a pair of shipyard workers at Vicksberg.

Owing to their unique job, Mitchell is always on the lookout for interesting things, and the green bottle just happened to come close enough to allow the man to see inside - there was a note. Painstakingly, Mitchell and Babb managed to extract the remains of the letter that was still legible in places. They figured it was written by a boy with the last name of “Tahl” or maybe “Dahl,” from Oxford, Mississippi, and a date - 1989.

Who was this mystery person? It became the talk of the office, and scheming how to reunite the author with their letter, the crew decided to post it on Facebook, where it was then widely shared. Serendipitously, Eric Dahl, his wife Melanie and son Chris, got wind of the message, and drove 200 miles to the shipyard to read young Brian’s letter.

It was tears and smiles when the salvage divers met the family, who shared stories of Brian with those who allowed such an intimate glimpse at their dearly departed son.

“He’s with them still,” said Mitchell. “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.”


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