- When Anna Molinari was a sophomore in high school, she tossed a message in a bottle into the ocean.
- That bottle was found by 17-year-old Sumner Mattingly, and the two began corresponding.
- Molinari recently reunited with Mattingly after not seeing him for seven years.
TikToker Anna Molinari’s story of how she met a stranger through a message in a bottle has captivated millions who are following along as the pair reunited nearly seven years after they first met.
Molinari, 25, was a sophomore in high school when she spent a semester at sea with a group of her classmates sailing between the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.
Molinari moved around a lot as a kid because her parents were in the military, which also won her a military scholarship to the prestigious Rhode Island boarding school, St. George. But all of the moving had made Molinari incredibly shy.
At one point during the trip, the crew grew incredibly bored. “We were out at sea for about five days. We had no wind, and we were moving super slowly,” she told Insider.
To pass the time, one of the crew members suggested the students make messages in a bottle.
Anna wrote about what she had learned while at sea and how she’d grown from the experience. They threw their bottles in the water and didn’t think about them again.
Six weeks later, after she’d returned to Rhode Island, Molinari received a handwritten letter from a 17-year-old boy named Sumner Mattingly. Sumner, who worked as an offshore fisherman for his family’s fishing company, Albatross Fleet in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, had found her message.
Randomly, that day, Mattingly had suggested they chart the boat 27 miles off their typical course, and by chance, that had led him to discover the bottle.
“He told me the day that he found it, he was the first mate on the charter, so he was the one pulling in the fish while the captain drove,” Molinari said. “His letter said that he resonated with everything I had put in my letter.”
The pair began corresponding regularly on Facebook Messenger and Instagram. Molinari thought about meeting him the next summer because, as it turned out, he lived not far from where my parents had a summer home in the Outer Banks. “But my friends were concerned. Some were telling me, ‘It feels a little creepy. You could get kidnapped,’ all that stuff. I got too scared.”
The next year, in 2015, when Molinari was 17, she decided she had to meet Mattingly “for the story.”
“This never happens to people, so I have to take advantage of it,” she said.
“I invited him over for dinner with my family. I guess he had lost his phone in the water that day cause I didn’t hear from him the whole day. My whole family was like, ‘he’s not gonna show up.'”
Mattingly then described Molinari pulling up at her parent’s house in his car, “barefoot, wearing board shorts, and has sun-kissed brown hair.”
“We caught up for a couple of hours, just comparing life stories and talking about what happened. The first time I met him, I had a boyfriend, though,” Molinari said.
The pair kept in touch over the last eight years.
“Through the years, we’ve kind of always kept in touch through social media, like Instagram and Facebook, but I haven’t been to the Outer Banks because my job kept me busy.” Molinari added that being in relationships had also kept her from visiting Mattingly because her partners would get jealous.
Before she met up with Mattingly for the first time in seven years this June, Molinari made a “get ready with me” TikTok that garnered more than 7 million views. Many followers compared her story to the plot of a Nicholas Sparks novel.
Molinari took her mom, sister, and friends out on a chartered fishing trip with Mattingly at the helm. It was the same boat he’d been on when he’d first found her message in a bottle nine years ago.
Molinari, now a fashion designer with her own brand, admits it’s unlikely that she and Mattingly would have otherwise crossed paths if it weren’t for the whims of the bottle.
“We’re so different,” she said. Where she’s moved around much of her life and now lives in New York City, Mattingly has spent his entire life in Cape Hatteras. “But I think we’re both similar in the way that we pursued careers doing what we love.”
“I think it’s just really cool that two people from two completely different walks of life were able to connect like this,” she continued.
And while most of TikTok is rooting for the two of them to end up together, Molinari is honest that she doesn’t know where the relationship will go.
“It’s very much open-ended. There’s no end by any means right now,” she said. For now, “it’s a reminder that these amazingly cool coincidences and surprises can still happen in life.”