COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - In 1988, a Union, SC 8-year-old wrote a letter and tossed it in the water at Edisto Beach, SC, hoping for a pen pal in return.
An entire childhood, young adulthood, and three of her own children later - she got her pen pal.
Miranda Moss Chavez describes the morning she tossed her letter in the water as a cool September day. Her family was on a trip to Edisto Beach and it was the shrimping season.
It was too cold to swim and she was bored, so she wrote a letter:
"Hello, My Name is Miranda Dawn Moss. I am 8 years old. I am in third grade at Foster Park Union SC," the letter reads. "My home address is Rt 5 box 449 A. I came to Edisto Beach for a weekend."
The upper right-hand corner reads: "September 26th, 1988" in her mothers' handwriting.
Miranda's childhood imagination hoped it would travel far away.
"It was at a time when we were really encouraged to have pen pals and I thought doing something like this would be a really neat way to get one and to see how far it would go - and who would write me?" Miranda said.
Miranda said even though her letter was sealed with extra care after Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, she thought it was gone forever.
"I put it in a plastic soda bottle, and I put some shells down in the bottom of the bottle to give the bottle a little bit of weight, I rolled the note up, tied it and stuck it down inside the bottle and screwed the cap on really tight," Miranda said. "I remember being very conscious about taking the wrapper off because I didn't want a sea animal to get tangled in it."
Now, it's 29 years and dozens of hurricanes later. Linda and David Humphries were volunteering to do beach cleanup after Hurricane Irma on Sapelo Island, GA.
"He was picking up all the bottles down there, all the other debris," Linda said. "He saw this one that was sitting there that looked like it had a paper in it. He picked it up and opened it – he had to crack it to get it open. He looked at the letter and thought, 'Oh it's this 8-year-old girl! That's cute.'"
David Humphries discarded the bottle and pocketed the letter - not realizing how important it would end up to be.
"He said 'I found a treasure' and handed it to me… I started reading it and thought 'oh, how cute our daughter Olivia can write her back,'" Linda said. "Then I looked at the date and it said September 26th, 1988. And I was just floored."
The couple began an internet search for the little 8-year-old girl. They said they had the basics: her maiden name, how old she would be now, and where she lived then.
Linda said it became a huge Facebook story, with friends sharing and searching to find the author of the letter. Within an hour, a friend of a friend sent her a screenshot of Chavez's profile.
Twenty-nine years after little Miranda wrote a letter to a person unknown, Humphries penned a message back – on her keyboard.
"We messaged each other back and forth [and] it got shared over and over and now it's like we're connected through this pen pal thing where we're worldwide," Humphries said.
The story has been shared in media outlets around the world. On Thursday, Humphries sent Chavez a package with gifts from Sapelo Island, along with her original letter.
"So many people have been commenting all these positive things," Miranda said. "One lady commented saying "Wow 29 years and it only went 90 miles?" And another woman responded saying ' No it's been around the world and back again.' And I thought that was an amazing take on it."
Miranda told WIS not only will she be meeting the Humphries but feels they have forged a lifelong friendship. It's one that will go much deeper than a simple pen pal.
To honor her childhood imagination and keep the spirit of the original letter alive, Chavez will have her three boys do the exact same thing she did: write a letter to a person unknown… in the hopes that one day, that letter will connect two otherwise unconnected people.
"I just felt like it's a sign of hope... or that happy times are coming," Miranda said.