Remember Aaron Swartz


One with the Force

I got the news last night from a friend of mine, who, along with Aaron, myself and several others, founded Chicago Force (Chicago’s Star Wars fan club) this month, 14 years ago. For the first few months, we only knew Aaron from his online persona “Jedi_of_Pi”. He’d offered to help build the website for the club, which was a big deal in 1999. After I chatted with him on AOL a few times, it was pretty obvious that he knew what he was talking about. For a while, we really knew nothing about him, because, for some reason, he could never make it to our meetings. Finally, one of the other members of our website team had to have a sit-down planning session with Aaron and she went to meet with him. We were all shocked when she reported to us that Aaron was only 12 years old!! As she mentioned today, when we were remembering Aaron, that even at age 12 he had more scope and vision than any of the veteran developers she’s worked with, since. I had probably chatted with him for several hours over those months…mostly about Star Wars and ideas for the website, but had no idea that he could possibly be so young.

Aaron was finally able to make it to some of our events and meetings, thanks to his kind parents driving him into the city from the burbs. Such a brilliant, disciplined, well-spoken guy with a great sense of humor, who probably knew as much about Star Wars mythology and trivia as he did about programming computers.

By the time the excitement from The Phantom Menace had died down in Y2K, Aaron was on to (much) bigger projects, and unfortunately for us, he didn’t have the time to continue on as our Webmaster, so he politely stepped down. Since then, we have always been thankful for his generous volunteerism and for sharing for the love of that galaxy we all had in common.

In the years after, anytime Aaron would show up in the news, a CF member would usually post an article that would wow us all. I personally have a lot of respect for what Aaron was working toward. No one in Chicago Force who knew Aaron has any doubt that he could have been like one of the “Accidental Billionaires” if he had chosen, but instead he decided to be one of the accidental heroes that come along, not so often….taking on evil empires and championing freedom.

Aaron, you’ll be missed. May the Force be with you…Always.