For Missing Boy's Family, a Sad but Familiar Cycle

Thursday, November 07, 2013 - 04:00 AM

Daniel Oquendo, father of missing boy Avonte Oquendo (Beth Fertig/WNYC)

There are fewer volunteers showing up at the family's command center, and the announcements made by the MTA about Avonte Oquendo are fewer and farther between. More than a month after the autistic boy disappeared from Riverview School in Long Island City, his family has entered a new phase in their anguishing search.

Duane Bowers, a trauma therapist who is also a consultant to the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children, said there’s a cycle to these things. Families go from believing their child will be found at any moment, to living in what he calls a dual reality.

"They think in terms of here’s what I’m going to do if he’s back, here’s what I’m going to do if he’s not back. Here’s what Christmas is going to look like if he’s back, here’s what it’s going to look like if he’s not back," he explained.

Colleen Nick has been living with that for more than 18 years. Her daughter Morgan was abducted at age six from a Little League game in Alma, Alabama, and was never found. She said she can understand why Avonte's family is still actively searching for him.

"A very small percentage come home alive," she said, of missing children. "We all understand that as parents of missing children. But until you can prove to me that my child is not coming home alive, then my fight every day is for her."

Avonte Oquendo's father and mother both believe he is somewhere near the school. His father, Daniel Oquendo, acknowledged the emotional toll not knowing has taken.

"It’s easy to go into a corner and just give up, but this is something that you have to keep seeing every day and dealing with," he said. "You have to get used to it. You have to grow thick skin."

He said he hopes the case leads to one thing, at least: more attention on the vulnerabilities of autistic children. Many of them are nonverbal, like Avonte, and have a tendency to wander. To hear the full story, click play on the audio player.


Comments [4]

Boris Ebzeev from Brooklyn

Great story!
But, I believe the Alabama part is an error.
Morgan was actually abducted in Alma, ARKANSAS 18 years ago.


Nov. 07 2013 11:29 PM

This story should be all over the national news!!! It is a sad day in America when a child like this, who has a designated one on one aid, is able to walk out of school by himself in a big dangerous city like that!!! And how is it that he could not be seen on the cameras. That means someone in that area has got him. Search every flippin closet, space, apartment or house in that area. Kick the damn doors in if they wont let you search. Find this child NYPD!!!

Nov. 07 2013 03:45 PM
Michelle Anderson from Virginai

I hope we are learning something with each missing child case.... but it seems we are not. I think the job would be easier if the media would commit some of their precious programming to bringing these kids home. It is also important that we change our culture when it comes to missing children. We have accepted it as part of life as we know it. Every so often a statistic will get thrown around. How about saying enough ! How about we start saving these children at all cost. There are actually people willing to give up a little bit for freedom to bring home a child. Someone saw Avonte. Someone encountered Avonte, someone knows where he is. Let's stop counting the cost of someone else's freedoms and bring this child home, and all the other kids that go missing. A missing child should not be status quo.

Nov. 07 2013 12:02 PM

I don't believe the NYPD is doing what they say.. this boy should have been found within the same day or week. They said they have viewed all video.. somebody is lying.. and further more.. its time to going into homes and business near that school.. Somebody over in that area has this kid... by now there's no telling what has happened to this poor boy. I reported seeing a child that looked like Avonte.. I'm here in Va Beach.. and I can not believe what I was told. I was told it was not enough... there should have been an alert the same day... every city and state on this east side should know about this missing autistic boy. I don't understand.. Kick those doors in and get this child... he is in somebodies house and they are not letting him out.. the search is right there and that person that has him is scared now too... this isn't good for Avonte.. do more to find him.. do it now

Nov. 07 2013 11:54 AM

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