Nick warms himself on a steam grate with three other homeless men by the Federal Trade Commission, just blocks from the Capitol, during frigid temperatures in Washington on Jan. 4, 2014.
(Photo: Jacquelyn Martin, AP via USA Today)
The mother of Nicholas Simmons, the missing Greece, N.Y., man who was reunited with his family after being photographed living on the frigid streets of Washington, D.C., said he left following a discussion with his parents about his future.
"We knew he was kind of struggling with, 'What am I going to do?'" Michelle Simmons said of her son, who lives with his parents and attends Monroe Community College. "He was getting very frustrated. You know what, it's the most common conversation you would have with an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old."
Simmons, who spoke to the Associated Press, said that her 20-year-old son has not talked much about his odyssey since he returned home Monday but that he is behaving normally and that his family is determined to get him whatever help he might need.
She and her family have declined requests for interviews from The (Rochester, N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle.
Nicholas Simmons left the home he shares with his parents around 5 p.m. on New Year's Day in a hurry without his coat, wallet or cell phone and it was reported earlier that he had driven his 1999 red Buick Century sedan into the nation's capital sometime in the previous 72 hours after leaving his family's home. His parents reported him missing that night.
Two days later, his disappearance was publicized by local news outlets, including the Democrat and Chronicle, at the request of the Greece Police Department, which seeks media attention in just a handful of the hundreds of missing person cases it takes on each year.
On Sunday morning, an Associated Press photograph of Nicholas appearing haggard and warming himself on a steam grate in downtown Washington was published by USA TODAY and the Democrat and Chronicle.
"I wanted to fall to my knees," Simmons said. "As a mom, you know your child's face, and then I just couldn't stop looking at it. It was so heart-wrenching. I just kept staring at it."
Simmons abandoned his car near the intersection of 8th Street Southeast and Independence Avenue, along a strip of well-maintained row houses less than two miles from where he was photographed and later found outside the Federal Trade Commission Building at 6th Street Northwest and Constitution Avenue.
Through the efforts of a USA TODAY reporter and the Associated Press photographer who took Nicholas' picture, longtime family friends who live in the Washington area were able to locate him on the street.
Washington police took Simmons to the hospital as a precaution, and his father, Paul, and older brother, Paul Jr., were reunited with him that night.
"I got the bear hug of my life. We held on and didn't let go," Simmons said of her reunion with her son. "I do think he needed to actually get into the home and maybe start understanding what had happened to him."