There’s a heartbreaking Page 1 story in today’s NY Times about a 13 year old boy who, fearing a scolding at his Bensonhurst home, ran away and spent the next 11 days riding the rails. Francisco “Franky” Hernandez Jr. eluded both the police and his frantic parents until a transit officer paired the boy up with the picture on a handmade “Nino Perdido” sign at a Coney Island station Oct. 26.
Franky was diagnosed with Asperger’s, sort of a high-function autism condition, in recent years. He’d run away on the rails once before; in January, Hernandez–also in trouble at school at the time–rode the subway but returned home five hours later.
The story offers a tragic look at a mother’s efforts to connect with an Asperger’s child, who typically has extreme difficulty expressing emotion, and a school system’s apparent inability to find a productive environment for such a kid. It doesn’t make the NYPD and the city’s extensive surveillance system in the subways look so hot either.
The boy rode the D, F and 1 train and subsisted on food purchased at newsstands: chips, croissants, jelly rolls. He drank bottled water and used the bathroom at the Stillwell Avenue station.
Franky’s mother, Marisela Garcia, isn’t about to throw away the stack of Nino Perdido signs she made last month.
“It’s not easy to say it’s over and it won’t happen again,” she said.