Newspaper photograph of homeless man leads family to missing loved one

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WASHINGTON — The family of a missing man has a news photographer to thank for finding him.

Nicholas Simmons, 20, disappeared from his family’s home in upstate New York on New Year’s day. He left behind his cellphone and his wallet. No one knew where he went.

Four days later Associated Press photographer Jacquelyn Martin was in Washington D.C. covering the White House, but with President Obama still in Hawaii, Martin found herself with little to do. Because unusually cold weather had gripped much of the nation, Martin decided to use her time trying to illustrate the frigid temperatures in the D.C. area.

She found a group of homeless people clustered together around a steam grate. One of the men stuck out. He was huddled under a blanket trying to warm himself. She introduced herself and shook his hand. He said his name was Nick.

Martin snapped a few more pictures and called it a day.

The following day, Sunday, Jan. 5, Nick’s photo was published by USA Today in Sunday’s Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester. His parents saw it. They called police. Martin was then contacted by USA Today via Twitter explaining that Nick’s parents were trying to locate him. Washington police were contacted and they located Simmons.

Nick’s father and older brother reunited with him at George Washington University Hospital.

A Facebook post by Nick’s mother read, “Nick is alive but obviously not well. We are going to get him home and safe. …. I am beyond able to put into words how I am feeling. t could have been months before we had a lead on his whereabouts. My baby looks so lost and I will be spending the rest of my life making him well.”

Those close to the case said it was a miracle Nick was located in the way he was.


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