Panel takes flight at Benedictine

For over a year they said it couldn’t be done.

They said that our little project couldn’t possibly bring everyone together. They said it was a disaster waiting to happen. They were wrong.

This past Saturday, during the 2018 Amelia Earhart Festival, “Chasing Earhart: The Discussion Panel” pulled off what so many people believed was impossible. We pulled off the largest scale discussion panel on the life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan ever.

From left to right, Gary LaPook, Doug Westfall, Bill Snavely, Larry Inman, Sammie Morris, Chris Williamson, Lisa Cotham Kate Jerome, Tom Dettweiler, Ann Holtgren Pellegreno, Shaesta Waiz, Tom King, Astronaut Abby, Scott Philbrook, Jessica Cox, Forrest Burgess, Dr. Joshua Wolf and Dick Spink. Photo Courtesy of Matthew Arnold Photography

We did it, like we do everything. Together.

With representation on every aspect of Amelia’s life; her involvement with the Ninety-Nines, her career at Purdue, her impact on children, aviation and aerospace and the many hypothesis’ regarding her vanishing 81 years ago, we were able to hold a discussion, not a debate, about what Amelia means to the world.

For those that listen to our weekly show and follow the documentary process, you’ll be familiar with how we do things. This event was our first live podcast, so to speak, and it was indeed filled with a few surprises.

People have been asking our team for over a year “When do we see the first footage?”

Before the panel began we, world premiered the trailer for the Chasing Earhart

documentary, which received a huge response. Additionally, at the end of the panel we teased a very special event coming next summer; the return of Amelia Earhart live on stage.

Photo courtesy of Michael Long Photography

I can’t tell you how many people approached our team after the panel to ask how we were doing that. We’ll show everyone next summer.

The panel itself was everything that I thought it would be. I found myself getting choked up as I watched each panelist take the stage, before I was introduced last. Standing behind the curtain with everyone was a surreal moment. I found myself repeating in my head “we did it.”

Honestly, I kept waiting for something to go wrong. When nothing did, I felt a sense of calm come over me. Up on stage with me were our project guests; people that I am humbled and honored to call friends.

I watched Astronaut Abby and Shaesta Waiz discuss their non-profit organizations and how they’re a continuation of Amelia’s legacy. I watched as Kate Jerome spoke about Amelia’s continuing impact on children all over the world.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Long Photography

Larry Inman discussed why he felt that Amelia’s legacy continues to affect everyone; men and women. Ann Pellegreno talked about re-creating Amelia’s world flight and Sammie Morris broke down Amelia’s love and connection to Purdue.

Lisa Cotham explained Amelia’s early days with the Ninety-Nines and how important that organization was to her. All of the panelists representing the varying hypothesis’ regarding Amelia’s disappearance discussed why they believe they know just what happened to Amelia and Fred all those years ago.

Pioneer Achievement Award winner Jessica Cox wowed the audience every time she spoke; grabbing the microphone from me with her foot. I sat there on-stage marveling at what this project has become. Twelve years ago, I sat in a room by myself taking notes and reading books with no official plan as to how I was going to implement the biggest Amelia Earhart project ever.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Long Photography

From those nights to this moment on stage was almost too much to take. I found myself back stage with all of our guests being asked to put into words what this moment meant to me.

All I could say was that I loved them all. And that we were going to prove everyone wrong, together. And that we did. I said it on stage and I’ll say it again. This project that we’re doing is like a terrible privilege. It carries with it, it’s ups and downs. Peaks, valleys, good days and bad.

But I wouldn’t change it for a thing. It’s made me appreciate life more. It’s given me special moments with my son that I will never forget. It’s made me fall in love with my wife all over again. And it’s taken away the anger and pain that filled me.

For those reasons above all I am in debt to this project, this panel and most of all I am in debt to Amelia Earhart.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Long Photography

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