A New York City kid afraid his parents would be mad at him for getting in trouble spent eleven days hiding in the New York City subway system. And with all the post 9/11-big brother additions, somehow they still couldn’t find him.
So where was Francisco Hernandez?
Riding the D, the F and the 1 trains back and forth, back and forth, according to the New York Times. He ate cheap junk food from the subway food vendors, used the bathroom in one station. But with his MetroCard as his pass to the city, the Bensonhurst boy never actually went aboveground and out into the world.
Diagnosed with Aspergerger’s three years ago, the thirteen-year-old had taken to the subway once before – for five hours. But when he called his mom to tell her he was on his way home several weeks ago, she told him the school had called and she wanted to have a talk with him. That’s when the Times said he went underground – literally.
Littering the area with signs showing Francisco in the red hoodie which he was eventually found in by a transit officer, his parents, both Mexican immigrants, have complained that their son’s disappearance didn’t get as much attention because of his race. They turned to the Mexican consulate to get pressure on the case.
It’s entirely possible. But there’s something about the dank and dark of the subway that makes just as possible this kid really did disappear. His Apserger’s in particular, which affected his social skills, would only have exacerbated a problem that’s common in most cities – social contact. When I lived in Manhattan, people rarely looked each other in the eye, and looking a homeless person in the eye was almost unheard of. If Francisco was wearing the same clothes for eleven days straight, not washing himself, he likely looked homeless, smelled homeless.
No doubt there are many benefits of city life that outweigh this one – I’m not arguing against New York or Chicago or Boston for that matter. But when it comes to disappearing, what better place to do it? Especially for a kid?
It’s also one of those “signs of the times” stories. Adults once would ask kids why they’re out without their parents. Today we’re too afraid – either of the kids acting up against us or their parents going after us for saying something to their child. That’s a small town issue too, the helicopter parents have whipped up such a frenzy in the air around their kids that the village mentality has been blown away. We don’t raise children together anymore, we hyperfocus on our own.
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