Saturday, July 2, 2011

Finding People is Hard

It's now been a couple of months since we started on the insane quest of finding all our lost classmates. 40 and counting. It is both insane and hard. And sometimes sad, to find that we are fewer than we hoped.

But sometimes it's the mechanics that is hard. Take for example, David George. Do you remember him? I do, mainly from gym class. How many David Georges do you think there are in the US? He could be anywhere.  Sure, you can go to Facebook. There are dozens. Which one is our David George? You can go to What state do you look in? Again, there are a lot of folks with the same name. There is also,,,, (three of which require pay subscriptions) and about half a dozen others. Privacy, Schmivacy.

People have talked to me about privacy as they ask "How did you find me?" In the Internet age, there is no privacy. Unless you're Grizzly Adams, you have no privacy with the Internet. Everyone leaves some kind of breadcrumb trail. Even the Unibomber was found. The real question is, why do you want to be private? I can understand my finances, pathetic as they are. I'd rather not have people snooping in my bank account. But the convenience of on line shopping far outweighs my concerns about privacy. The possibility of some Chinese guy poking around looking for high school classmates should hardly be a matter of concern. So it is a choice, like anything else. On the one hand, the illusion of privacy. On the other, your past, your classmates, your friends with whom you've lost touch, due to circumstances you can't even remember. Just like the pop song goes, "I hope you dance." You can't cut yourself off from your past. 'Cause, no matter where you go, there you are.

The one thing you want to avoid is looking for a person who is no longer living. So the first place you go is the Social Security Administration's Death Index. The government has a lot of problems, and regardless of politics, that is something about which no one will argue. One problem they don't have, generally, is paying social security money to a dead person. In this particular case, sadly, we believe David to have passed away in February of 1996. After 14 years, even evidence of that, except in our memory of him and for his family, is hard to come by. Obituaries are usually only kept on line by newspapers for a few months. It is sheer chance and after much searching can you find one. SSDI doesn't lie. It is THE authoritative source. The National Archives in Utah uses the SSDI as its source for deaths. The Department of Veterans Affairs is another absolutely reliable source. And the last clue is if there is no trace after the death date you find. At that point, if you can find family to find out what happened, there's a chance you will know how your friend spent the years of their life away from you. Other than that, they will live on as high school graduates with a wonderful life in front of them, forever.

For all of us, it's a race to the grave. The trick is to make it a great ride. Don't do it without your classmates. Reconnect. Go to the Reunion. Connect on Facebook. Engage your younger self. There was a reason you were friends with these people, remember?

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