Danny Oquendo (pictured left), who is the older brother of Avonte (pictured), the New York City 14-year-old child with autism who ran away from his middle school was found dead, penned a heartfelt essay on the Autism Speaks website, thanking the Big Apple for their outpouring of love and support during his family’s most trying time.
Avonte’s disappearance took the concrete jungle by storm as folks from all walks of life joined in the search for him on October 4th of last year, after he ran out of his Long Island City school.
Danny, who wants to become a lawyer so that he can help families with special needs children — particularly those affected by autism — praised New York City for coming together to find his brother:
New York City; the City of Dreams. With a reputation for being the hardest place on Earth to succeed, it is frequently described as a cold, unforgiving, cut-throat Metropolis. New Yorkers are labeled as rude, impatient, aggressive, and unsympathetic. I’m writing to tell you that this reputation the rest of the world assumes is far from the truth. Although the daily New York experience may feel like one of isolation amongst crowds, any true New Yorker will tell you that when it matters most, this city comes together in larger numbers than any other community on the planet as proven after the tragedy of 9/11. This tendency for New Yorkers to come together also held true during the city-wide search for my younger brother, Avonte Oquendo.
According to Danny, the family’s only alternative other than ‘New York’s finest’ was to turn to the city’s residents to ask for help in searching for Avonte and the help came in droves, not only from New York but from the surrounding states as well, the aspiring attorney explains:
As word spread through social networks thanks to shared posts and retweets we began to see massive groups of volunteers coming from every corner of the tri-state area just to help us find our beloved Avonte. Word of his disappearance spread like wildfire and before we knew it there were masses of sympathetic volunteers ready to do anything in their power to aid us in our search.
We went from a small family searching night and day for our loved one to a large operation with thousands of volunteers ready and willing to help in every possible way. We were given supplies, tents, food, flyers and moral support from strangers that never even had the opportunity to meet Avonte.
The community came together for a common cause in such an unparalleled way that it renewed my faith in the kindness of humanity. The people of New York responded to our anguish with a tremendous amount of support and vigilance. What was even more inspiring was that every volunteer I had the opportunity of meeting acted as if Avonte was their own flesh and blood. It turns out that before it was all said and done Avonte did indeed become the beloved son of the city. His story touched everyone’s heart and everyone wanted to ensure that he was found safe and sound.
A definite cause of death could not be determined by the city’s Medical Examiner for the little boy who captured the hearts of New Yorkers. The family has surmised that Avonte probably drowned as a result of being frightened by someone or something and jumped in to the river. The family hopes, however, that Avonte did not die in vain and prays that the security standards in schools across the country are enhanced as a result of the little boy’s death:
Sadly, our school systems currently don’t share the same concerns as the families that raise these children. So let us make certain that Avonte Oquendo’s death is not in vain. Let this tragic occurrence be the surge that builds up enough momentum to provide a real solution to the problematic issues that this hardship has brought to our attention. Let us do what is necessary to allot more funding for schools so they can provide their staff with proper training and implement appropriate security measures that would prevent another incident like this. Finally, let this be a reminder that at the end of the day, as tough as New Yorkers are, we can come together as one to achieve common goals that are in the best interest of our children, our loved ones, and our city.
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