For five days, David Gonzalez of Elmhurst doggedly searched across Queens for his twin brother, Peter, who is autistic and cannot communicate verbally.
Relief came over David on Oct. 8 when he got the news that his brother had been found safe and unharmed, but hospitalized at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks. Peter had been found sitting on a lawn two days after going missing; the homeowner who spotted Peter called police, which led to his hospitalization.
“I guess all of my efforts were for nothing,” said David in recalling the search. Of course, those efforts were not in vain.
The day that Peter went missing, David had left his brother’s side in the family’s Gleane Street apartment for what seemed like just a moment. He went into he kitchen to grab Peter food and when he returned, he had walked out of the door, down three flights of stairs and out of the building nowhere to be found.
Typically, when a person goes missing, family members are advised to speak to the police as quickly as possible and provide a few recent photos of the missing person, nicknames or aliases, a physical description including height, weight, age, hair color, eye color, list of possessions, list of identifying marks such as scars or tattoos, a list of medical conditions, a list of the places the person frequents and a general description of the situation surrounding the disappearance. In addition, loved ones can either reach out to other organizations to help in the search or wait.
Although David reached out to the police to report his brother missing, he was unable to sit at home and remain helpless in the search for his brother.
“As a person of color, I am used to self-policing,” Gonzalez said.
David printed out hundreds of fliers and posted them around Jackson Heights and Elmhurst the days following his brother’s disappearance. He made T-shirts featuring a photo of Peter and gave them to friends. He contacted Councilman Daniel Dromm and Assembly hopeful Catalina Cruz to see if they could help in the search.
“Tell everyone that you care about that you love them,” said David as he passed out fliers in Jackson Heights the evening of Oct. 3. “Because just like that they can be gone.”
Every chance that David got he asked those who listened to take a photo of his shirt and post to social media. Most were happy to oblige.
He wanted to break the internet with #FindPeterGonzalez, he posted to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram since there have been several reported cases of social media being used to help find missing people.
“I am just afraid that someone is going to want to do something to him,” said Gonzalez, who even resorted to making announcements in stores like Rite Aid and CVS asking customers to help find his twin, walking into alleyways shouting Peter’s name, and running across Queens at the drop of a hat when a stranger would call with a lead that led to know where on Peter’s whereabouts.
According to David, the only way that the hospital was able to figure out their nonverbal patient’s identity was because a nurse happened to see a NYI segment about Peter’s disappearance.
When David received a call from police on Monday morning of Oct. 8 that Peter had been found, he was finally able to tear himself away from his phone and rush to the hospital.
“Finally this chapter is over,” he said.