What we never knew about our classmates

On the front page of today’s Post, there’s a story, “A drug dealer’s son finds a better way to be Tony Lewis.” The story is a solid, worth-it read and very deserved credit. Tony was a classmate at Gonzaga, and while my class prided itself on having membership stretching from down the street to counties away, I didn’t know his family history. Doubt many others did. Everyone understood life down the street was 10x harder than counties away, but we likely couldn’t imagine what 20x was like. A mini-newsie, I’d read Rayful stories but never connected the dots.

In today’s story:

It wasn’t until later that he realized that his dad had just been sentenced to life in prison for his role in a drug distribution network that authorities said generated more than $2 million a week at its peak. “I can remember him saying, ‘I’m not going to be home for a while,’ ” Lewis says. “He also told me from the beginning, ‘Be strong.’ But it’s like, what does that mean? And I created in my little mind what that meant.”

It meant that as a child, Tony fought to prove himself on the streets, playing tough. It meant, as a teenager, attending Gonzaga College High School, the elite Jesuit boys’ school on North Capitol Street, even though he couldn’t relate to most of the students. “None of my classmates came from where I came from,” he says.

It meant, as an adult, taking a series of government jobs, accepting a paycheck that amounts to a tiny fraction of what his father once raked in. In an old picture in a family album, his father leans on the hood of a new BMW. The younger Tony Lewis drives a beat-up Oldsmobile and uses a cellphone with a shattered screen.

What got the son to a place that his father would never reach was the hardened determination of his aunt and grandmother, a school that opened another world to a kid whose male role models were mostly dead or imprisoned, and a neighborhood that was becoming home to a much greater variety of people.

My only disappointment from the story is a small one. The second pic in the piece’s mini-gallery, of Tony standing alone in his neighborhood, is stunning. The Post site has got to get itself an enlarge button. Let the photographs run as bold as the stories and the people inside them.

That said, who cares about enlarge buttons? Congratulations to Tony.

Side note: Is the Post secretly profiling my high school classmates one by one? Anthony Riker, profiled in November, was in a couple classes.

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