Paul and Michelle Simmons last saw their 20-year-old son, Nicholas, at their home in Greece, N.Y., on New Year's Day. Then, he vanished without a trace, leaving behind everything, including his cell phone and wallet.
According to Fox News, "Police said authorities notified local media and tried to investigate the case, but there were no leads."
Three days later, AP photographer Jacquelyn Martin was assigned to the White House. Since President Barack Obama was still on holiday in Hawaii, Martin took to the Washington, D.C., streets to depict the bone-chilling winter weather. She introduced herself to a group of homeless men huddled against a grate outside the Federal Trade Commission.
The youngest of the bunch, however, caught her attention. "'It struck me how young he was,' Martin said. 'I again introduced myself and shook his hand. He said his name was Nick,'" reports Fox News.
USA Today further explains, "'I [Jacquelyn] told him that if I could write his whole name in the photo sometimes it could help him connect with family and he said, 'No, I'm OK, but you can just write that my name is Nick.'"
The Associated Press "moved 126 photos depicting frigid conditions from across the country. Three of them were of Simmons, but only one of them could his face been clearly seen," reports USA Today.
@ndiblasio please contact me. you wrote an article for USA today that features a picture of my missing brother— Hannah Simmons (@hanniesimmons) January 5, 2014
USA Today reporter Natalie DiBlasio's story was paired with one of Martin's photos, and by 10:50 a.m., Simmons' sister, Hannah, had tweeted her: "please contact me. you wrote an article for USA today that features a picture of my missing brother."
Sgt. David Mancuso, the lead investigator on Simmons' case said, "It was pure dumb luck how all this happened. It's truly a miracle," notes Fox News.
Simmons was taken to George Washington University Hospital for evaluation and then reunited with his family. No specific cause for his disappearance has been confirmed.
"An experience like this really reminds you that everyone has a story," Martin said.