Sunday, January 27, 2019

I remember the big things

I met "Big Tony" Gonczarow during my "Pre-Med" educational track days at PURDUE. Thanks to the magic of Facebook - Tony and I reconnected - only a few years ago.

Tony was easy to remember. First, he was taller than me, and had at least 50 pounds on me. And I'm not...tiny. Second he was from the Northeast, like me. Third, his stories about his father - a Holocaust survivor - were impossible to forget. Riveting stories. I can remember vividly Tony telling stories of how his father survived, and how he made his way to the USA. Tony's father was very proud to show his bare arm - to show the numbers tattooed on his forearm.

Around 30 years ago, I was very busy moving colleges, schools and museums off of ISDN and over to DSL. Video conferencing was going through its renaissance, and the new affordable high speed Internet (DSL) was the way to go for hosting quality distance learning and video conferencing sessions.

One of my clients at the time was the Holocaust Museum and Educational Center. One of their cool ideas was to host real-time video conference calls with survivors, and with K-12 students all around the world. This was state-of-the-art at the time.

One of my cool ideas was to not just host these meetings - but to also record and archive these sessions. 

I love technology. If it were not for Facebook, I would not have reconnected with Tony. We have "come close" to meeting again in NYC over the past three years, but it did not happen. It will happen, one of these days. If it were not for Facebook, I would not know that Tony became a teacher at Southmont Senior High School. For years, he has been changing lives. Teaching, coaching, mentoring students.

How many of his students have gone on to become Doctors, Nurses, Business Owners, Teachers, Entrepreneurs. How many of the lives that "Big Tony" has touched, are now citizens out in the world - doing good work.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Ever since I reconnected with Tony, I have been thinking more and more about the Holocaust, and about Tony's father. I have been thinking about how we are all connected, all of us. And how through technology, we can ALL do more to be - connected.

Later this week, I shall be donating my archive of Holocaust Survivor video conference meetings with K-12 students to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in NYC.

If Tony's father did not survive, there would be no Big Tony. There would not be the amazing sons that Tony is so proud of - sons who are now moving on with their own college careers. And if there was no Big Tony in Chemistry 101 at PURDUE, I probably would never had the "extra" motivation to service the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County. I would have never had the idea or the motivation to give them my services at no cost. But I did give them free DSL service, in memory of Tony's father.

Life is all about the moments that we connect together.

I owe a great deal to Edward Gonczarow, a man that I never met. We all do.

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