Mays Landing resident Scott Kisby was duck hunting off Gravelly Run road around Thanksgiving last year when he noticed something in the marsh. He walked over and scooped up a weathered bottle with a note inside. He tried to twist off the metal cap, but the years had sealed it shut.
When he got home, he used a vise to remove the cap, finding inside a yellowed but well-preserved note that read, 'Please write and tell me where you found my bottle. Nancy Mangold, Shaner School Room 11, Mays Landing, NJ, 08330.'
With little indication of age from the bottle, Kisby assumed based on the state of the note that the message was only a few years old. He called the number listed, but got no answer. With no leads, he abandoned his search until Christmas, when he showed the note to his older sister, Stacy Suazo.
"I was reading it, I read the name and said, 'I went to school with this girl!'" Suazo, 41, said.
More than 30 years before, when she was just a third-grader at Shaner, Suazo, along with the rest of her classmates, had thrown the messages in the Great Egg Harbor River as a gradewide project. Mangold, now Mangold-Hartwick, also had been in third grade that year.
Despite knowing each other through church before they even attended elementary school, Suazo and Mangold-Hartwick had hardly been close and had last seen each other three years before at their 20-year high school reunion.
Suazo reached out to a few mutual friends via Facebook, and within 30 minutes, she had a phone number.
Mangold-Hartwick said she was shocked to hear her note had been found after all these years.
"When I was a little kid, I was hoping that the bottle made it to China or something, or some other country, and I would have a pen pal," said Mangold-Hartwick, who moved to Mount Laurel from Mays Landing when she was 26. "I never dreamed it would stay in Mays Landing."
Suazo made arrangements with Mangold-Hartwick, who happened to be in town, to meet up at Shaner the following weekend.
Mangold-Hartwick has rarely visited Mays Landing since she moved away 15 years ago. Still, when she visited the school, the memories poured back.
"The thing seems so big, and I looked at it, and I'm like, 'This place is so small.'" Mangold-Hartwick said. "It brought back memories. Standing outside in line, waiting for the teacher to let you in class - it brought those memories back."
It was too cold on the day of the meeting for much small talk, so they just took a few pictures before parting.
Still, they're now Facebook friends, and have spoken a bit since their recent reunion. And now, 30 years later, they have a chance at the friendship they never had as kids.
"We just never really formed a friendship, and I think it's just fate for us to catch up like that," Mangold-Hartwick said.
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