A Chance Encounter I’ll Never Forget

UPDATE: AP has published an article following up with the Simmons family, it’s the first time they’ve been quoted directly about their ordeal since after Nick returned home. My best to the Simmons family.

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

I never imagined when I made this picture in DC this past Saturday that it would help reunite a missing Nicholas Simmons, 20, of Greece, N.Y., with his family who were desperately searching for him after he disappeared New Year’s Day. His family asks for privacy at this time while Nick’s condition improves. The odds of this chance encounter resulting in a reunion are mind boggling. Thanks to all the people who have reached out about this story, to all the families whose love and perseverance overcomes the odds, and to the outreach workers who help the homeless every single day. My best to Nick and the Simmons family. Please remember those who are still on the streets who need our help.

There’s been quite a lot of interest in this remarkable story. Here are a few links to articles and interviews with me about the photograph and outcome:

Associated Press article with photographs from Saturday’s chance encounter.
USA Today
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
My interview with CBS This Morning
My interview with WJLA in DC
My Dad was quoted in the Syracuse paper.
Huffington Post
Good quotes from the family in this Daily MailOnline piece.
The story even made it to China.
And an important perspective that I agree with: from Minnesota Public Radio.

A note about all the people involved that were part of this remarkable connection: AP Photo Editor Jon Elswick suggested a cold weather feature to me, perhaps involving the homeless. I photographed Nick by chance in DC. USA Today Photo Editor Christopher Powers later selected the image I had made of Nick from all the cold weather wire features to accompany their article about the weather. A USA Today insert was put into the local Rochester paper. The family was shown the newspaper photograph and believed it to be their Nick and contacted USA Today Reporter Nicole DiBlasio who rapidly put me in touch with the frantic family. The Simmons family and friends rallied to the scene from afar. The Greece, NY and DC Metro Police Departments coordinated to locate Nick where I had last seen him, taking him to a hospital where he was reunited with his father who drove all day desperate at a chance to find his son. Without any of these people involved the reunion may never have happened. Thanks to all for the roles they each played in making this story have a happy ending.

10 thoughts on “A Chance Encounter I’ll Never Forget

  1. I would bet this great, heart-wrenching and heart-warming story is going to have a nice ripple effect, encouraging all of us people to take a much nicer, more generous approach to people living on the street (and to reporters too ;-), Good work & Happy New Year.

  2. De nada! No hay ninguna problema puedo entender español tambien. Gracias a usted por su interes.

  3. This story has to of put the photographer on cloud nine thousand! I can relate to it alot being homeless myself for 8 years. The young man must of suffered a stroke or seizure that made him walk away lost. 80% of the homeless suffer some kind of medical discomforts that are mostly going untreated. Too bad we can’t get a national health care and welfare plan in this country that caters to the people who need it the most, the homeless. Thank you for this heart warming story.

  4. Thanks for writing it’s good to hear your perspective. I hope you are doing better yourself. We don’t know exactly how Nick’s state of mind is/was but the family is determined to get him whatever help he may need. It’s truly been an amazing experience for me on a personal level and has reminded me of the power of photojournalism.

  5. I am Michelle’s sister. I have been wanting to get in touch with you. I feel so grateful for what you did for Nicholas and my sisters’ family and are still doing. You obviously have a huge heart and from what I have seen ,use your profession in an amazing way. I believe that Nick and his family and all of us are meant to do great things for others and that God has a higher purpose for Nick. He had an angel with him from the moment he stepped outside his home and angels guiding others to his rescue. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. No words can express my gratitude for allowing my sister and her family hope.

  6. Jacquelyn, It will never be enough to tell you how grateful we all are that you were where you were that day and that instead of just taking a few shots, you took some time to talk to Nick. This story has touched us deeply and we will never look at anyone in need the same again. For most of us, our contributions to help will never have this profound of an effect but it has certainly motivated us to try a little harder. Thank you again.

  7. Thank you for writing, Ms. McMahon. I’m truly touched by your words. All my best to Nick and his family.

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