Four days after his disappearance, 20-year-old Nicholas Simmons’ parents discovered a picture of their son in the Sunday edition of USA Today.
Paul and Michelle Simmons saw the photograph on Sunday morning when it was posted to a Facebook page dedicated to finding their son.
"It could have been months before we had a lead on his whereabouts,” Mrs. Simmons said. “My baby looks so lost and I will be spending the rest of my life making him well.”
In the photograph taken by Associated Press photographer, Jacquelyn Martin, Simmons appears unshaven and hovering over a grate outside the Federal Trade Commission.
Martin was stationed in Washington, D.C. to take pictures of President Barack Obama, but wanted to illustrate the unusually cold weather. When she found Simmons amongst a group of homeless inhabitants, she was struck by his youth and introduced herself.
When Martin finished shooting, she wired the photos to USA Today, and later received a Tweet requesting Simmons’ identity.
Police quickly made the connection and picked up Simmons on Sunday afternoon. Mr Simmons flew to D.C. and was reunited with his son that night.
“It's really gratifying to see that a photograph can make a tangible difference in someone's life,” Martin said. "I'm happy and touched that the photograph could help reunite this family."
It is unclear why Simmons left his New York home or how he ended up in D.C.