Date: Jun 28, 2002
Press Release Number: 75-2002
A Little Ferry, N.J., woman and her 30-year-old autistic son were reunited this morning thanks to a Port Authority Police sergeant who himself has a developmentally disabled son.
The incident began about 6:15 a.m. Friday, as the woman was loading luggage in a livery service vehicle as she and her son were preparing to leave for John F. Kennedy International Airport and a flight to Aruba.
When the woman went back inside her home in Little Ferry to get more luggage, the driver left for JFK, thinking the autistic man was the sole passenger.
After Port Authority Police were notified by Little Ferry Police Sergeant Michael Walsh, Port Authority officers at JFK began watching for the vehicle, which was on its way to Terminal 8.
Port Authority Police Sgt. John Rienzie of the JFK Police command was able to track down the livery service company, locate the woman’s son, and get in touch with the woman who was reunited with her son approximately 30 minutes after the Port Authority was notified by Little Ferry police.
Because the son is autistic and becomes upset in the company of strangers, he told the driver he wanted to get out of the vehicle. The driver, unaware of the man’s condition, let the man out at the first exit after crossing the Triborough Bridge.
After learning the sequence of events from the driver, Sgt. Rienzie again contacted the mother and requested she drive to the Triborough Bridge location. When the mother arrived, the son was found in the middle of the street, waving his arms.
“I have a very soft spot in my heart for anyone who has a child with a disability,” said Sgt. Rienzie, who has a son with cerebral palsy. “The reuniting of the mother and her son was a team effort, with Port Authority Police officers scouring the roadways with the help of the Little Ferry Police Department and our officers looking for the vehicle at JFK.”
Sgt. Rienzie later met with the mother and her son upon their arrival at the airport, sat with them to help them calm down, and made sure that the son was not physically injured. The mother and son later made their flight.