AFTER THE INTERNET, THE WORLD'S A MUCH SMALLER PLACE . . . Back in December, I did a short post titled "A Gap in the New Zealand Internet Scene" about law-student weblog in New Zealand. Someone left a comment that made me remember something I hadn't thought about in years: back in grade school in the 1970s, I was assigned a "pen pal" from New Zealand, and we ended up corresponding for several years. I didn't think I remembered his name, but then it came to me, and I added it to a comment to the original post. Since my penpal's name was unusual, I tried searching it on Google. When I did, I found out right away that my old penpal had been killed not long ago in an automobile accident.
It wasn't the sort of news I'd been expecting. It gave me a strange feeling, especially since the reason for googling my old pen pal was to see if I could renew our correspondence. When I told my kids the story, they asked me to look for my old penpal's letters. I was sure they'd been lost long ago, but the kids insisted. Sure enough, I found them all in their original envelopes, stuck inside a larger envelope where they didn't belong. It's probably why I thought I didn't have them.
I hadn't read my old penpal's letters since early in high school. Now that I had them again, I wondered if there was a way to find his family in New Zealand to see if they wanted copies. But before I even starting looking into it, there was another comment added to that original post about New Zealand, which said, in part:
Evan, . . . I am the eldest son of your Penpal . . . I am sorry to inform you that he did die in a car accident in 1999 in Singapore, after being in the Army for nearly 20 years. He even made Lt. Colonel. I'd be happy to correspond with you via email regarding this strange coincidence. - I found this whilst looking for details about my name and my fathers.
As it turned out, I didn't have to find my penpal's family because they found me. Since then, I've been corresponding by email with my old penpal's eldest son. I was even able to copy all his father's old letters and send them back to New Zealand for his family. It's something that wouldn't have happened without this weblog, which makes it one of those unusual Internet anecdotes that proves, once again, for better or for worse, that after the Internet the world really is a smaller place.