After Ericksen was recently contacted to share his side of the story, he began looking for photos and mini-cassette tapes from his time in Iran. He found the one featured in this story of them in their youth and sent it to Ali the same day that Ali shared his story with NAFSA. "Seeing that picture brought me a world of pleasure. I really want to thank him for that. I lost all my pictures when I was trying to leave [Iran]. Everything of my past is gone, so a picture like that is so valuable to me," says Ali, who plans to keep the picture on his desk to remind him of those carefree days gone by. The picture also gives him hope that he will one day reconnect with others with whom he has lost touch.
"I want to find the lost parts of my past life. It is so important to me to be connected to my past. Sometimes I think of it and remember someone, and I really want to see them and see what happened. I have been looking for a lot of people," he says. Ali is still searching for, among others, two American friends with whom he traveled through Europe on his way to the United States in the 1970's, and his dream is to have a reunion of sorts. "What I want to do is have a gathering. I have a really strong love for these people. I would like to reconnect and see how they are doing now after so many years." For him, it doesn't matter how much of his life was taken from him. It matters how much he can claim back.
Reflecting on this story, Ericksen is grateful for the chance to have met and reconnected with Ali. "It is heartwarming just to know that he is doing so well. I think there is a special community among international educators. When others heard this story, it resonated with so many people. My story may be a little dramatic, but every international educator has a story like this to share."
Ericksen, for his part, also has others from his past that he would like to see again. "The best student I had in my town would come by after school and speak English and talk about books. I certainly lost touch with him after I left Iran, but 10 or 11 years ago, I came home and there was a message on my answering machine." Ericksen was in awe that his former student found him, especially at a time when access to the Internet was sporadic and risky. His former student is now an attorney in Iran, and Ericksen has pledged to meet him again one day.
Though Ali is hesitant to share personal details that could cause problems for his family in Iran, he will gladly share his story of friendship, hardship, and appreciation. "It's always a pleasure for me to talk about my past. I have nothing to be ashamed of, and I am proud of what I achieved. I look at it as an experience that was worthwhile, and what I did was for a good cause, and I would still do it if I had the chance. I take this as my mission to tell the world what we went through in the 80s and how many people lost their lives for freedom and democracy."