Well, it's official. The photograph of a teenage boy riding the New York City subway is not Avonte Oquendo. The real boy in the "Avonte sighting" photograph went to the police -- along with his mother -- to confirm he's not the missing autistic boy. That means the search for Avonte isn't over.
Scary stuff -- for a set of parents and for the city as a whole. But is it possible there is a nugget of hope in all of this?
That photo of the kid who turned out not to be Avonte went mega viral this week. I saw it EVERYWHERE, and not just in relation to the New York City metro area. Friends who live across the country were posting it to Facebook, encouraging folks who ARE in the NY area to keep their eye out for this kid.
You know what that means?
People still care.
People will still step up.
I wasn't feeling that way when the photo of the boy we now know is not Avonte first cropped up. At the time, it seemed that the only one who DID care was the 13-year-old boy who snapped the picture. After weeks and weeks of searching for the teenager who went missing on October 4, I wondered if people were just that apathetic.
But then yesterday it seemed the grassroots efforts were reinvigorated. People thought they could help, and so they did something.
It would be better news if Avonte were home safe. OBVIOUSLY!
But fair or not, weeks and weeks of searching with only dead ends makes people grow weary. Sometimes it takes a sighting like the one that (sadly) turned out not to be to remind people there is hope, that there is a job for the public to do in all of this.
That subway photo didn't bring Avonte home. But hopefully it has brought people back to the case, hopefully it will help keep the search for Avonte alive.
What do you wish you could say to Avonte's parents right now?