When Woodhaven native Adrien Brody walked up to the podium this week to accept his Oscar for best actor at the Academy Awards, “The Pianist” star became the youngest man ever to win best actor honors, beating out Hollywood favorites like Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day Lewis.
when his moment at the microphone came, Brody shifted the spotlight to his
old high school buddy Tommy Zarobinski of Rego Park . . . an Army Reservist
currently stationed in Kuwait.
said during the show, “And I have a friend from Queens who’s a soldier
in Kuwait right now, Tommy Zarobinski, and I hope you and your boys make it
back real soon. God bless you guys. I love you.”
parents — Ada and Thomas Zarobinski — were thrilled. Thomas said,
“Could you imagine, the biggest moment of this kid’s life, and he
mentions my son,” and Ada added, “Now that’s a great friend. Here he
is, a big star, and he thought of Tommy . . . That’s my Adrien.”
of supportive phone calls and visits descended on the family’s modest Rego
Park apartment – the place where Tommy has lived his entire life.
despite their excitement over their son’s Oscar mention, Ada and Thomas
have other thoughts on their minds. They somberly watch the news every
night, hoping to see their son alive and safe.
can’t eat, and is having trouble sleeping. She said, “That’s my baby
out there. All of this attention is nice, and Adrien is so wonderful, but I
wish I could just see my son. I just want him back.”
Ada sat with a Tribune reporter in the Zarobinski apartment
this week, she smiled proudly as she talked about her 31-year-old son Tommy.
She said, “He’s such a sweet guy. Always smiling, always happy. He’s
fact, before leaving for the Middle East last month with other reservists
from Bayside’s Fort Totten, Tommy told Ada that he was proud to fight for
his country, and said, “Don’t worry, mommy. Everything will be fine.
Nothing’s going to happen.”
said, “My son is very brave. He’s always been very brave. But I’ll
tell you what, I’m scared to death. I watch the news, and I get so nervous
. . . I just want him to come home. That’s all I want.”
has called his parents since arriving in the Middle East, and is in “good
spirits,” Ada said.
March 27, Tommy sounded happy when he spoke to Brody particularly on Jay
Leno’s late night show. It was the first time he had been contacted in
over a week. At presstime his parents couldn’t be reached for comment.
Zarobinski family has gotten “so much support from friends” over the
past few weeks, Ada said, that “it’s hard not to stay positive.” She
said, “So many people are telling me he will be fine. So many people are
praying for him. I know God will protect him.”
God isn’t the only one, Ada said.
— Ada and Thomas Zarobinski’s only other child — was one year older
than Tommy and died of a heart attack on Nov. 11, 2001. Ada said, “I just
can’t lose another child. I don’t know what I’ll do.”
said the loss was “extremely difficult,” but said, “Now, I know Kenny
is watching over Tommy overseas. He won’t let anything happen to him.”
not alone in that belief. Three of Kenny and Tommy’s friends, Milton,
Milton’s mother Connie, and Alfred sent the Zarobinskis a basket of food
this week with a card that said, “God will not take Tommy. Kenny is now an
angel and will keep an eye on him. All our prayers to you and your family.
He will come home! God and Kenny are watching over him.”
Ada said, “What a beautiful card. When I hear things like that, I feel confident that Tommy will be OK . . . I love my kids. Kenny is helping me through this.”
months before he died, Kenny helped Ada get through another difficult day in
her life . . . Sept.
was working as a security guard in a building next door to the World Trade
Center. He had taken the job after serving in the National Guard from 1997
to 2001, stationed in places like Kosovo and Macedonia. He enlisted in the
Reserves at Fort Totten in Bayside shortly after returning, but took a job
as a security guard in the meantime.
that morning, Ada said, “He was right there. He told me he could feel the
building shake. He could have left, but his job was to make sure the
building was secure, and he didn’t leave. He’s so brave, my son.”
phone service cut off, Tommy couldn’t call his parents to tell them he was
alright, and Ada said, “I was a wreck that day. I was so scared and upset,
and Kenny kept saying, ‘Mom, don’t worry, he’ll be fine. Tommy is
strong, nothing will happen to him.’”
enough, at 2 a.m., Tommy came home covered in soot, but safe. Ada said, “I
hugged him and hugged him. I kissed the ground when he walked in . . . Can
you imagine he survived that, and now I’m worried about him again over
there fighting. It’s very hard on me.”
has had a hard time dealing with her son being overseas, and is constantly
watching the news.
on March 23 she made a point of flipping between war coverage and the
Academy Awards, knowing that Brody was up for an award. She told the Tribune,
“Adrien called me a few weeks ago and I told him, ‘You’re going to win
Adrien.’ He said, ‘Yeah?’ I said, ‘Yes, I know it.’ People say
he’s a long shot? Let me tell you, no way, I knew he would get it.”
added, “I should have made a bet, but I don’t bet.”
Ada didn’t actually watch her prediction come true – when Brody won, the
Zarobinskis were watching a different channel.
didn’t know what happened until a neighbor knocked at the door screaming,
and Ada said, “You know what I thought when I heard that? I got so scared
that something happened to my son.”
when she heard the news, “I couldn’t believe it. My God, what a sweet
boy Adrien is. He’s still thinking of Tommy. He didn’t have to say that,
but he did anyway. He’s just beautiful.”
met Brody — a man Ada called his “closest friend” — while at
Fiorello LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts in Manhattan. The two
had never met before, even though they lived only a few miles from each
other in Queens.
said, “Adrien came over for dinner a few times. He’s a really sweet boy.
He and Tommy played electronic games and they played basketball and they
went out for pizza. They are just regular guys.”
evening Ada said she asked Brody to autograph a napkin while he was over the
Zarobinski house for dinner. She said he happily obliged, and she said, “I
told him, ‘One day, Adrien, this napkin is going to be very valuable. Not
for money, but for me.’ He got all excited and said, ‘You think so Ada,
you think so?’ I said, yes, I know it.”
She said she hasn’t spoken to Brody since his Academy Awards speech, but said, “He’ll be calling me. I know he will. And I can’t wait to talk to him.”
may be proud of Brody, but when it comes to art, she prefers the work of a
different artist – her son.
said that Tommy has been painting since he was three-years-old, and said,
“He’s really very good. He was always drawing faces or painting.”
excitedly pulled out an impressive landscape painting that Tommy made when
he was six-years-old. She said, “He made it just for mommy . . . I
remember he was so little, I couldn’t believe how good it was.”
is also a poet, and she said, “He’s written poetry. That’s why he went
to the arts school, to do art and poetry.” Although Tommy left the arts
school before he graduated and joined the National Guard, she said he never
stopped art, and said, “He loves it. He’s very artistic and creative.”
and Thomas both said they can’t wait for their son to return home, and Ada
said, “When he comes, I’m going to hug him and never let him go.”
yellow ribbon hangs outside the door of the Zarobinski apartment, and Ada
said, “When he walks in the door, he can take that ribbon off and save it.
And he will walk in the door. I can feel it.”
of Queens heroes are fighting overseas to protect Democracy in the Middle
East, and we at the Tribune want to hear and print as many of their
stories as possible.
we need your help.
you have a friend or relative stationed in the Middle East, drop us a line
and let us know. Tell us about the soldier, either over the phone or in
writing, and send us photos. Hopefully, our paper will be filled with
tributes to our local soldiers and their heroic efforts overseas.
Contact us at 718-357-7400 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
to send a message of support to a hero overseas?
United States Dept. of Defense (DOD) suggests that people set on sending
support log on to several websites, including www.defendamerica.mil,
and support the troops via e-mail.
those who want to send packages to family members overseas, the United
States Postal Service offers a series of restrictions and regulations on its
website at www.usps.com.
For more information, call 1-800-ASK-USPS.