Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Vicki Van Meter, Record Setting Pilot As a Teen, Loses The Battle With Depression ~ Legal Pub
What happens to those who reach lofty goals so quickly in life? What happens when one reaches some tremendous goals at an early stage but even larger dreams fail to materialize? Let's go back to the early 1990's. Vicki Van Meter was an 11 year old pilot who made headlines for piloting a plane across the United States. In 1993 at age 12, she flew from the U.S. to Europe. Her life long dream was to be an astronaut but it never happened. At age 26, she apparently took her own life. (Above Photo Courtesy of A.P.)
According to official reports, Van Meter died Saturday of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound but in my view, she may have been a victim of her own success. Vicki's body was found in her Meadville, Pennsylvania, home a day after the shooting. According to family members, she had been battling depression with some apparent success of late. Her brother, Daniel Van Meter said, "(s)he was unhappy, but it was hard for her to open up about that, and we all thought that she was coping."
Vicki once said as a teen, "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything." But Vicki's dream was to become an astronaut when she grew up. She earned a degree in criminal justice from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. Vicki spent two years with the Peace Corps in Moldova. Van Meter more recently was an investigator for an insurance company. She apparently had recently applied to graduate schools to study psychology, but she never became an astronaut.
All this success in just the sixth grade. Van Meter's record was broken by a 9-year-old in 1994. Her record was subsequently broken by a nine year old girl. (The obsession over children pilots ended in 1996 when 7 year old Jessica Dubroff, her father, and the flight instructor all died in a crash in Wyoming. After the crash, Congress passed a bill banning record-setting attempts by unlicensed pilots.)
Corinne Van Meter said Vicki, "led a full and interesting life. ... She had more guts than any of us could ever imagine." One suspects that Corinne is right. The battle to conquere depression is real difficult fight which is often misunderstood. In Vicki's case, what came first, unfulfilled dreams or the depression remains a mystery for the public. What is certain, Vicki had so much more life to live that her early exit can only be explained by the belief that her next stop needed good young pilots. Vicki, R.I.P.