13-Year-Old Boy Survives 11Days on New York Subway

This is a very weird story, but it does prove one thing I’ve been saying for a while: Kids are not snatched willy-nilly from the New York City subways.

On the other hand, they’re not noticed for days and days either.

Hmmm. — Lenore

30 Responses

  1. I’ll have to send this to my 83 year old stepfather. He grew up in Brooklyn NY and spent a couple of days riding the subway when he ran away from home. He was the youngest child of immigrant parents. He told me the subway workers finally noticed him and there was hell to pay when he got home.

  2. The mom blames the police for not doing enough. I have to ask, though, what sort of home life makes 11 days in the subway preferable to facing punishment by parents? This kid apparently didn’t want to be found.

  3. “I have to ask, though, what sort of home life makes 11 days in the subway preferable to facing punishment by parents”

    He looks like he may be autistic from his photograph, and the issue may be more complicated than a fear of facing punishment.

  4. Oh, he does have Asperger’s. (I hadn’t actually read the article yet.)

  5. Gosh darn it… I know the kid has an issue and all… but I find this hilarious in the fact that not a damned one of them brought up how he could have been snatched, molested, killed… no – just how he survived on snacks and water.

    I think that’s a case of, “well, we just won’t say anything about that because its WRONG.”

  6. This reminds me of a book I read in elementary school about a homeless kid who lived in the subway tunnels for months and subsited on those free crackers at ketchup packages at cafes. Does anyone remember what that was called?

  7. Sky, the book you’re thinking of is probably _Slake’s Limbo_ by Felice Holman.

    There’s also an echo of _From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler_.

    I will point out that there was very little coverage outside of NY of this situation even while this boy was missing. (I live in Northern New Jersey.) I’m suspicious about the lack of comments about the possibility that he might have been snatched, molested or killed… however, there is at least one person on the Huffington Post comments blaming the parents for letting ‘an autistic boy’ ride the subway at all.

  8. however, there is at least one person on the Huffington Post comments blaming the parents for letting ‘an autistic boy’ ride the subway at all.


    Given that trains is one of the most common perseverations, and that in NYC an obsessive interest in subways is considered almost *normal* by parents (there have been articles on the subject in the Times before), not letting him ride the subway could be considered cruel and unusual punishment!

    Besides, the boy needs to get around. 15 years ago he would not have had a diagnosis. (Ask me how I know.)

  9. Ha ha, my StepDad emailed me back. He says:


  10. This reminds me of a story from my sister’s neighborhood. A 12/13 yo MR neighbor went missing. After about a week a group of slightly older homeless/semihomeless teens walked into a substation with the girl.

    Seems she had committed some minor infraction and was afraid of “getting her butt kicked” and had run away. It had taken the teens several days to talk her into going to the cops and that the cops wouldn’t let her parents beat her. In the mean time they kept her with them all day so no one could harm her.

    My sis’s MIL said – Look how horrible the world is you can’t let your kid out of your sight.

    Sis said The kid was safer with a bunch of homeless/semihomeless* teens that she was with her family. All this proves is you don’t threaten your kid with outrageous punishment for minor things. You make sure they know they will be safe if they come to your with a mistake.

    *semihomeless – their families have homes but for some reason sleeping on the streets several nights a weeks is seen as safer than going home.

  11. Sadly, the color of his skin may have been the reason he was “unnoticed” for so long, not to mention maybe his age. Does he LOOK older than 13?

    I am glad he is safe and sound, and he DOES prove kids are far more resilient and capable than the general society gives them credit for.

  12. Not only a 13 year old but a 13 year old with special needs. Kids are more resourceful than we think.

  13. I’ve taught several undiagnosed “Aspergers” kids over the years. These kids fall within the realm of normal as far as I can tell and are perfectly competent, often super-competent in certain areas. They just don’t always process information the way the rest of us do, so you might have to personalized the instruction a little bit to get them to the same place.

    It’s sad that a boy felt he needed to hide from his family for 11 days, but getting scolded can take on huge significance for most kids. The article says his teacher criticized him for not concentrating (which sounds about right for this type of kid), but at the same time they can hyper-concentrate (which probably explains why he lost track of how long he’d been gone).

    I have to give these parents credit for apparently having him in a regular public school and trusting him on the subway on his own. Odd things like this will occasionally happen, however, until he’s more mature. Missing for 11 days is scary, but I’m guessing it won’t happen again.

  14. Here in Oregon, a three year old push some sort of handicap button on the train and the door opened. The kid steps out onto the platform and the door closes before dad has a chance to follow his son.

    A young lady was standing on the platform, saw the incident and stayed with the child for seven minutes. That’s how long it took dad to contact the driver. The driver has been put on leave for not responding sooner.

    I would’ve been panicked, but the good news is that there was someone who took it upon herself to look after the boy until dad returned. I love happy endings…especially when they involve strangers.

    (of course the news had to include the story about a teenaged kid getting texts from a stranger, who managed to fly across country alone…yada, yada, yada. He was found by family before he got to the stranger, so that ended well too…BUT IT COULD”VE ENDED IN A TRAGEDY! ) ((that’s what the news reported))

  15. Slake’s Limbo – yes, I loved that book when I was a kid, but didn’t know anyone else who had read it. Until now!

  16. My only point in mentioning the Asperger’s was that there may have been more of a motive in riding the subways than avoiding a scolding – he may have just enjoyed it / been fascinated by it.

    Slake’s Limbo – that was it. Thanks! Something about that book has stuck in my mind for a long time.

  17. This is off-topic for this post, but as Christmas approaches and I’m trying to find gifts for the kids in my family, I’d sure love a Free-Range gift guide. Where can I find real, sturdy kid-sized cooking and gardening tools? Actual chemistry or electronics sets like we remember? What toys inspire further investigation rather than following directions? What books showcase the spirit of adventure and innovation? If others are thinking about their holiday gifts, too, maybe we could have a thread or a section of the website for that.

  18. @Teacher Tom, thanks for the very clear description that fits many kids with Aspergers (including my own son). The hyperfocus-with-inability-to-focus thing is very frustrating for both the child and the parent, but when you realize how many of our great scientists and inventors fit the mold…you’re right that you just have to personalize the information a bit to get them to it. My son will make leaps in mathematics particularly. It’s a strength for him; but he either gets it immediately or he doesn’t at all until you can find a way to get him to grasp it, and then suddenly he “gets” a month or even a semester’s worth of work, because everything that concept touches just falls into place for him.

    @allison, good idea! Try http://www.toyportfolio.com, which is the website for the Oppenheim Toy Review, which believes in exactly what you’re talking about. I’ve found that country hardwares often carry “old-fashioned” toys; and catalogs that cater to rural people often have them, too, like the Duluth Supply Company (I think that’s the name). My kids have an old-fashioned pedal car; a miniature, real tool set; a Radio Flyer wagon; and numerous other tradtional toys my parents and I found for them at such places.

  19. As far as a gift idea, I saw at Fred Meyer the other day in the book section ‘A Dangerous Book for Boys’


    I tried the image code, see if that works…
    Otherwise you can get it at Amazon


  20. As someone who has cared for a child with aspergers, I can say that most of these children, unlike kids with other forms of autism on the spectrum, are very logic driven, which makes me wonder what is so wrong in that home that this seemed like the logical step to take.

  21. As someone who actually is aspie, I can say I’ve done things like this… especially at that age.

    There was nothing wrong in my home other than that it was a mess. I had – and have – a very loving family. And yet (especially as a child), when things went wrong and I went into meltdowns or shutdowns (I suspect that this kid was in a state of autistic shutdown during most of this, as seen by him “zoning out”) I was filled with the conviction that my family was… well, was going to harm me. Which made it urgent to run away, or to fight them, or to hide very well.

    Stupid, because my family wasn’t likely to do anything to harm me, but it felt real to me at the time.

  22. Alison, I like http://www.sciplus.com/ – it’s a science surplus store. Amazing stuff.

    Back on topic, what an amazing story. The boy did really well on his own it sounds like.

  23. I thought this was hilarious, and noteworthy for exactly the reason you mention here, Lenore: because this kid was riding around the subway for almost two weeks and Nothing Bad Happened.

  24. Slake’s limbo! I had forgotten all about it, but I loved it at the time.

  25. I talked to my Stepfather today and got the low down on his runaway, NY subway experience. He was 14 yrs old in 1939. His older brother Ben was at the bottom of the heap in the printers union for the NY Times and had a car. Paul, my stepDad, found the keys to the car in the car. He contacted his good buddies, Melvin and Simon, and they went for a joyride. He damaged the back bumper pulling out of a parking place. They decided to replace the car quietly, hoping to escape scrutiny.

    When Paul tried to return the car to his home it was already dark. All the lights were on in the house. There police were present. He knew he was in deep sh*t. So he parked the car and went to the subway to avoid the wrath of his father and older (by 12 yrs) brother.

  26. I imagine that kid learned more within those 11 days on the subway then he did in a year in school!

  27. Thanks for the information friend

  28. Not only a 13 year old but a 13 year old with special needs. Kids are more resourceful than we think.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: