“It was pure dumb luck how all this happened,” Greece, New York police Sgt. David Mancuso, the lead investigator, told the Associated Press.
AP photographer Jacquelyn Martin was supposed to have White House duty over the weekend, but since the President was in Hawaii, she began taking photograph’s in the nation’s capitol to document the record-breaking cold snap.
During Martin’s journey around the city, she found a group of homeless men huddled by a steam grate outside the Federal Trade Commission building. That’s where she met “Nick”. Martin was struck by his youth and began taking photos of him and others trying to get relief from the cold. When she was done, she shook the man’s hand, published her work, and went home.
Martin would soon find out that “Nick” was in fact Nicholas Simmons, 20, who went missing from Rochester, New York on New Year’s Day. Simmons was taken to the hospital and reunited with his family. USA Today broke the news to Martin over Twitter. Simmons disappeared after driving away from his home in a red Buick with only what he was wearing: plaid pajama pants, a gray T-shirt, and sneakers. He left his wallet and cell phone behind. There were no leads.
“We couldn’t do a lot of things we normally would do in a missing person’s case,” said Capt. Patrick Phelan of the Greece Police Department.
The family learned of the photo through a Facebook page they’d set up. Simmons’ sister Hannah, sent a message via Twitter to USA Today reporter Natalie DiBlasio, the author of the story. The tweet read: “Please contact me. You wrote an article for USA today that features a picture of my missing brother.”
“We are going to get him home safe, and this is by far the greatest example of God’s love and divine intervention I have ever experienced,” Michelle Simmons, Nicholas’ mother wrote on Facebook.
According to the Huffington Post, “Martin, the AP photographer, said the episode serves as a reminder to journalists that every person they encounter has a story…”
There is still no indication of why Simmons left his home or why he went to Washington D.C. Police believe there may have been a “discussion” between Simmons and his parents that made him leave. He was a normal 20-year-old living at home with part-time jobs.