Man Traces SD Card Found in Zimbabwe to Conn. Woman - NECN

Man Traces SD Card Found in Zimbabwe to Conn. Woman

Joe Sabia said his friend found an SD card in the sand while on safari in southern Africa

(Published Saturday, April 23, 2016)

The international mystery may have started in Zimbabwe, but it ended in the state of Connecticut.

Joe Sabia, who is a Milford-native, said when his friend found an SD card in the sand while on safari in southern Africa, he immediately knew he had to find the owner.

"I said 'I'm holding on to this' with the intent of going back to my laptop and seeing if there were actual images on the card," Sabia told NBC Connecticut. 

Sabia remembered seeing a YouTube video from 2011 about a New York man, Todd Bieber, who found a roll of film in Brooklyn and, with the help of the internet, was able to return the film to its rightful owner in Paris.

The 32-year-old videographer thought this could be a "digital version" of Beiber's story and created a six-minute YouTube video to recount how his trip to Zimbabwe turned into a lost and found mission. 

In the video, Sabia finds the SD card has 13 photos of a group of friends from about four years ago. One photo was even taken on the exact day — Dec. 31 —that Sabia's buddies found the SD card. 

The video shows Sabia hopelessly looking for clues about who these people may be. A photo showed a jersey framed on a wall and another some shelves. 

But it was a phone number on a water heater in one picture that led Sabia a little closer to his finding his SD Cinderella. 

The phone number was a Fairfield area code.

“The company is based in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Someone here is from Fairfield County, Connecticut!" Sabia is heard exclaiming on camera.

After making the video, Sabia's friends helped share the post on social meda sites like Reddit. 

“Within five hours someone knew someone, who knew someone, who eventually found a girl who is in some of the photos," Sabia told NBC Connecticut in a Skype interview.

It turns out the girl from the photos wasn't that far from Sabia at all.

“All of a sudden the picture pops up and it’s me and I freak out. I was like, 'this isn’t real,'" Rebecca Sheinman told NBC Connecticut.

The young woman and her family had taken the same safari trip around the same time Sabia did in December 2015.

Sheinman, 22, who is originally from Wilton, said she was on the phone with her mom on Wednesday night when her dad grabbed the phone. 

"He said, 'Girly, get a computer' and I hear in his voice he is freaking out!" Sheiman said. 

Sheinman's dad had gotten an email from a friend with Sabia's link. Sheinman and her dad soon emailed Sabia to thank him for finding her SD card, even though she didn't know it was lost it in the first place. 

And just like that, Sabia traveled thousands of miles back home from Africa to find that the owner of this lost SD card was also a native in his home state.

In another serendipitous twist, Sheinman said she will be moving to New York City after she graduates from college in Michigan — the same city where Sabia lives right now.

The two plan to meet up sometime in May when Sheinman returns east and can finally reunite with her SD card and exchange a ton of stories. 

"I would love to put a bow around this whole thing. I want to be able to hand her her digital card and talk about our stories." Sabia told NBC Connecticut.  

"We're so accidentally bound by this experience," she added.

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