AP Photograph Leads Family to Reunite with Missing Son

01/06/2014 at 06:30 PM EST

Man reunited with family through AP photograph
The AP photo of Nicholas Simmons that helped to reunite him with his family
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Paul and Michelle Simmons started 2014 searching for their missing son.

Nicholas Simmons disappeared from his parents' house in upstate New York on New Year's Day, leaving behind all his personal belongings. Four days later, with help from frigid weather, luck and a copy of USA Today, the Simmons family was reunited.

Jacquelyn Martin, an Associated Press photographer, spent Saturday documenting the cold weather conditions around Washington, D.C. Among Martin's many photographs was a group of homeless men huddled against a steam grate. The group included a young man named "Nick."

After talking to the men and taking several shots, Martin sent her pictures to the AP wire. The picture of "Nick" ran in Sunday's USA Today and was spotted by a friend helping the Simmons locate their son. Certain that the man in the picture was Nicholas Simmons, the news was passed along to the 20-year-old's parents.

Less than 24 hours after snapping the shot, Martin was contacted by USA Today about locating Nick and helping to bring him home. With directions from the photographer, Nicholas Simmons was picked up on Sunday and reunited with his family.

Simmons's mother posted a message to Facebook just before their reunion: "Nick is alive but obviously not well ... We are going to get him home and safe and this is by far the greatest example of God's love and divine intervention I have ever experienced."

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