Weather photo helps trace missing man

2014-01-06 12:19
Nicholas Simmons. (Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

Nicholas Simmons. (Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Nicholas Simmons disappeared from his parents' house in a small upstate New York town on New Year's Day, leaving behind his wallet, cellphone and everything else.

Four days later, an Associated Press photographer, looking for a way to illustrate unusually cold weather, snapped his picture as he warmed himself on a steam grate a few blocks from the US Capitol.

Paul and Michelle Simmons saw the AP photograph in USA Today on Sunday morning after it was brought to their attention through a Facebook page set up to help find their son, according to police and family friends.

The photo, taken on Saturday by AP photographer Jacquelyn Martin, showed Simmons with his unshaven face pressed against a grate outside the Federal Trade Commission. He wore a ski jacket and a hood over his head. A thick gray blanket covered his lower body.

Martin was assigned to the White House that weekend, but with President Barack Obama still on vacation in Hawaii, she spent the day looking for shots that would illustrate the cold weather.

That is how she found Nick Simmons, in an area where homeless people often gather when it is frigid outside. She found a cluster of men huddled around the grate, introduced herself and started taking pictures.

Chance encounters

Then she noticed one person in particular, huddled under a blanket.

"It struck me how young he was",  Martin said. "I again introduced myself and shook his hand. He said his name was Nick."

Martin finished shooting, sent the pictures to the wire and then called it a day. The next day, she received a message via Twitter from USA Today.

The newspaper had run the photo of Nick and was contacting Martin to tell her that Nick's family had recognised him and was trying to locate him. Michelle Simmons was certain that the young man in the photograph was her son, missing for four days.

Police picked Simmons up on Sunday afternoon and took him to a hospital, said police Captain Patrick Phelan. Simmons's father, Paul, and older brother Paul jnr arrived in Washington on Sunday night and were reunited with Simmons at the hospital, said long-time family friends Peter and Cindy Gugino.

Martin, the AP photographer, said the episode serves as a reminder to journalists that every person they encounter has a story to tell.

"It's really gratifying to see that a photograph can make a tangible difference in someone's life. That's a really amazing thing to have happened", she said. "I'm happy and touched that the photograph could help reunite this family."

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    twitter  |  facebook  |  us  |  media publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

UK expert: Boks ‘have KO game’
Ireland hold on to down Italy
As it happened: Ireland 16-9 Italy
All Blacks sympathise with England
Traffic Alerts

It is time to focus on your daily rhythm. Are you putting too much attention on future projects and neglecting the day to more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.