Thursday, October 3, 2013
Carmel on the Case: Message in a Bottle
A story that began 30 years ago with an empty bottle of wine and a handwritten note ends with a unique connection between two families. 7's Carmel Cafiero has this special assignment report: "Message in a Bottle."
Michael Simpson and Carmine Sorrentino (both reading back and forth in a montage): "Hello. We threw this in the ocean returning from the island of Capri, on May 17, 1982. If found, write us."
Michael Simpson was 24 years old, on leave from the U.S. Navy, when he and a few friends were returning by boat from an island off Italy's mainland. On their morning menu: wine.
Michael Simpson: "It was just a bunch of fun people, having a great time, and enjoying a fine bottle of Italian red wine. We finished the wine, wrote the note, threw it in, and tossed it over the side."
Carmine Sorrentino was just a baby. His uncles were walking along the beach in their hometown near Naples when they discovered the bottle in the sand ... about a year after it had been thrown into the water.
Carmine Sorrentino: "They opened the bottle, they found the roll, the paper inside. They read, of course, they didn't understand nothing of English. They just kept the message there. Like, you know, maybe in the future, we will deliver it."
In 2008, Carmine moved to Miami for work. Before he left, an uncle gave him the delicate piece of paper and a challenge: Find the man who wrote it. Easier said than done.
Carmine Sorrentino: "When I came to Florida, I tried, of course, with internet, to try to find the address. You know, Google Maps. I tried the internet without success."
Carmine reached out to 7News for help.
Carmel Cafiero: "We had little to go on. A common name, Michael Simpson. And an address in Florida that no longer existed. He could have been anywhere, but luckily, Michael hadn't moved far, and we were able to find him."
Michael Simpson: "I thought somebody was playing a joke on me. I could not believe that it's been this long, and how far it's traveled."
We went with Carmine to meet Michael for the first time at his home north of Tampa, to hand deliver what the former Navy chef had handwritten 31 years ago.
Michael Simpson: "Michael. How are you?"
The two men had plenty to talk about.
Michael Simpson: "The way this has come back to me, it's just unbelievable. It is. I mean, 31 years? It's fantastic."
Carmine Sorrentino: "Did you remember, about the bottle?"
Michael Simpson: "Yeah, it was a nice red wine, I know that."
Then, a bonus. Via Skype, from Italy, Michael and Carmine were joined by Umberto Sorrentino. He says he was the one who actually picked up the bottle, when he was 13 years old. Umberto even sent us a video recreating his find on the beach where it happened.
Carmine Sorrentino: "Yeah, it's Michael."
Michael Simpson: "Buongiorno!"
Carmine Sorrentino: "Finally found you after so many years."
Umberto invited Michael to come to Italy and stay with him.
Carmine Sorrentino: "If the message arrived, also will arrive the person who threw it."
On the note, Michael had written "care of" his father, George Simpson. The Italians wondered if George was with him at the time. He was not, and has since passed away, a sentiment not lost on Michael.
Michael Simpson: "Losing my parents a while back, yes it does. It means a lot, a lot."
For Carmine, the meeting meant mission accomplished.
Carmine Sorrentino: "My uncles, they keep this for, like, 25 years, 26 years, and 5 years ago they give it to me. They give you a task, you know. You need to finish it."
In a final twist, Michael works for a water bottle labeling company. Its slogan: "Your message on a bottle." His message just happened to be in one.
Carmel Cafiero, 7News.