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Their son went missing and they found him on the front page of a newspaper

Missing man Nicholas Simmons found on front of newspaper
The image from USA Today

To the millions of people who looked at the image over their morning coffee, he was just another homeless man.

A face peering at them from the front of the newspaper.

A man fending for himself against the harshest winter weather seen in over twenty years.

But to his family he was their missing son, and they would do anything to get him back.

How they were reunited is an amazing piece of delightful luck. A bittersweet tale of homelessness and the issues that lead to it, but a reminder of just how magical the world can be when things go right.

You see, twenty-year-old Nicholas Simmons went missing on New Years Day from his hometown Greece, New York.

He left behind all his belongings including his wallet and his mobile phone.

His desperate family launched a social media campaign to try and track down their son, and also contacted local media.

The search to find Nicholas Simmons

But the search didn’t produce anything.

Until, to their surprise, they saw a photo of him in the local newspaper.

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The article was about the current cold snap in the US – the ‘polar vortex’ sweeping the country. There on the front page, captioned as a homeless man ,was their missing son and brother.

He was identified only as “Nick”. He was wrapped in a grey blanket and was staying warm by huddling next to a steam grate in Washington DC.

The SMH reports that the photographer, Jacquelyn Martin was  actually assigned to the White House that weekend, but with US President Barack Obama on vacation in Hawaii, she spent the day looking for shots that would illustrate the cold weather.

The newspaper the family saw

She started taking pictures of a group of men trying to keep warm and says she was particularly interested in one man.

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

The next day his family saw the picture in their local paper, which had syndicated the story from US Today.

His concerned sister sent a tweet to the journalist hoping she could help track down her brother.

On Sunday the police searched the area and found Nick. He was taken to hospital and released to his family.

Greece Police Department released a statement saying: “Simmons was located after he was photographed in Washington, DC, by an AP reporter. (The) photo ran in the USA Today in an unrelated story and the photo was seen by Simmons’ family who recognised him.”

Luck was obviously with the family as the newspaper had 126 images they were deciding between to depict the cold weather.

Of the three Jacquelyn Martin had taken of Nick, only one showed his face.

One of the images not used of Nicholas

His mum, Michelle Simmons, posted on a Facebook page set up to try and track him down “Nick is alive and obviously not well. We are going to get him home safe and this is by far the greatest example of God’s love and divine intervention I have ever experienced.

“I am beyond able to put into words how I am feeling.”

“It was pure dumb luck how all this happened,” said Sergeant David Mancuso, the lead investigator.

“It’s truly a miracle.”