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From Issue #45 June 19, 2014

Amelia Reincarnated

A young pilot retraces her namesake’s journey.

By Liana Aghajanian Twitter icon 

Amelia Rose Earhart’s family always told her she was distantly related to Amelia Mary Earhart, the aviation and women’s rights pioneer who disappeared during a journey around the world. Speculation about precisely what happened persists. Expeditions are still organized to find her plane, and teams have claimed to have found its remnants.

Now, Amelia Rose is sitting in a nearly pitch-black garage, just a year before she planned to embark on her own round-the-world flight following the same route as her name-alike, something she announced at the aviation world’s premier event, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in Wisconsin. She spends so long in the garage with her tears and her shoes that the small motion light fails to sense anyone in the enclosed space. The light goes off.

In many ways it feels as if the light is going out on her life too. Has she built her budding aviation career on a misunderstanding, a genealogical error, a falsehood she had believed to be real? How was she supposed to continue with this flight, continue with her job as “Denver’s own Amelia Earhart.”

In the next few weeks, she’ll have decisions to make. She will tell her friends, her family, her co-workers, and the television audience who watch her across Denver, along with her rapidly growing social-media fan base, that she shares no common ancestry with Earhart. She’ll be criticized for it. She will be called a liar, a self-centered, talentless weather reporter who gained fame by using a name that didn’t belong to her — even though she had no part to play in being named after one of the world’s most famous women. Is her flight over before it’s started?

Okay, she reasons with herself. I’m not related to Amelia. But my connection to her feels so much deeper than a bloodline, enough to make me take a 17-stop, 28,000-mile flight across the world.

In these moments, as she recounts to me later, Amelia Earhart is reborn.

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