The best of all possible news today: Matthew Brown is home with his family.
Last Friday, we shared a notice from a Brookside family that their 27-year-old autistic son, Matthew, had left home during the night, was missing…and might be afraid of or have trouble communicating with people who could help him get back home.
While the family and neighbors posted fliers around the neighborhood, the story also quickly took off on the social media site NextDoor.com. Over the next few days, Matthew’s father, Brian, posted further information on NextDoor, and more neighbors quickly jumped in to help, spreading the news and joining the search. Eventually, the story reached ABC7-TV…and when a viewer in Buena Park, who had seen that story, phoned in a tip to the Buena Park police early yesterday, Matthew was finally found – safe – and reuinted with his family.
Because the community had become so invested in the search for Matthew, however, his grateful parents have continued reporting updates as the ordeal has resolved, and have been very generous in sharing details of the story.
First of all, Brian Brown posted an update to NextDoor almost as soon as his son was found yesterday, reporting that it was the “Good Samaritan” tip from the television news story that led to the happy resolution. At the time, Brian thanked everyone who had helped in the search, and said “Matthew is calm and peaceful, getting hydrated and cleaned at home.” As for how Matthew got all the way to Buena Park, Brian said, “We asked if he walked all the way. He said “I jogged too.” He said he survived eating oranges and someone gave him a hamburger.” In the end, Brian said, Matthew “went directly from the gentle hands of [the Buena Park Police Department] into the safety of our car, and straight home while sipping on water. He is home!”
As the day went on yesterday, and Matthew was able to fill in for his family more details of what happened, Brian also shared with the Buzz that his initial hunch about Matthew’s motivation for leaving home had been correct: Matthew had been upset when his grandmother fell ill and was taken to the hospital the previous day, so “he might have wanted to go to Montebello where his grandmother lives and where he has early childhood memories.”
Brian said, “Our suspicions were confirmed, since Montebello is in the [same] general direction as Buena Park. He told us that he stayed on the busy streets with a lot of cars.” Brian said also that Matthew is an avid hiker, and “seemed to have a sense of direction to get to his childhood town, probably got onto Telegraph Road that took him just south of Montebello and into Orange County.”
Later yesterday evening, Matthew’s mother, Marla Brown, also posted more details to the larger NextDoor community, as well as her heartfelt thanks for the efforts of the community in banding together to help find her son. In her post, Marla confirmed that her family is generally “pretty private and not used to mingling with our community much,” but said she was extremely and especially grateful to neighbor Jason Oclaray for creating the NextDoor discussion, from which all the other community efforts stemmed.
“…without Jason, we would not have had all your wonderful support,” Marla wrote. “You all provided your specialty, be it with direct action in spreading fliers, calling hospitals and shelters, keeping your eye out, or sharing on social media, prayers and well wishes. It was all a great comfort to receive your support. You have all restored my faith in humanity!” Also, Marla said, “Without this [NextDoor] thread, we would not have had contact with…Jovana [Lara, from ABC7 TV], who aired Matthew’s story just at the right time…”
Marla went on to report that as a result of Lara’s story, a woman named Judy, in Buena Park, “reported sighting Matthew in the street on Knott Avenue and Orangethorpe, in front of a McDonalds at around 8:30am that morning. We didn’t believe it at first because Buena Park is quite far.”
Marla said that after a few phone calls, the family reached the Buena Park police, who confirmed “a 911 call reporting a male standing in the street at 8:45am.” But when police responded to the call, Marla said, the man “was gone, so no report was made, so no description of the person.”
So Marla and Brian drove to the McDonald’s themselves to check out the report. “The manager on shift didn’t work the day before,” Marla learned, “so didn’t see anything. But she was kind enough to check her camera feed for that hour. Matthew was not on it. We decided that since we were getting so little calls for the number of fliers and shares that we had, maybe Matthew was not moving around Los Angeles anymore, so we might as well share his flier in Buena Park, too. So we dropped by their police station and a few other places.”
While driving around, however, Marla and Brian “realized that…there was a restaurant across the street where we could ask if they saw anything. While there, we got a call from the Buena Park Police and the officer said, “We have your son!””
“OMG!!!! Where? The officer replied, “Target.” It was about four blocks down. When we got there there were no police. We got a call telling us to drive around to the other side, where we saw about four police cars and twice as many police officers with Matthew amongst them. I jumped out of the car in amazement! Four days outside in the elements with only a t-shirt, yet all he looks is dirty and sunburnt. Oh well, and a little sad, too, to be handcuffed… The officer saw me approaching and asked, “Do you know this man?” Absolutely! The joy was indescribable! Every day after Matthew went missing, I would cry as night approached afraid that the dark was coming and the cold would set in. My stomach ached from hunger, yet anything I ate tasted like sawdust. Once Matthew was found, all of a sudden I could eat again. The police asked if I wanted to take him home. Of course the answer was affirmative. I thanked the police profusely, and we headed home, back to Brookside.”
Marla ended her NextDoor story saying, “This whole ordeal has shown our family what a great community we have. The support we received was incredible. Thank you, Jason, Martina, Jovana, Tony, David, Julie, Evan, Patricia Lombard, and all of you who shared on FB and other social media, keeping our eyes out, and prayers. These past four days have been surreal, but thank God a happy ending with new-found friends.”
Today, Brian Brown posted a photo of the shirt Matthew wore during his adventure, along with a note to Buzz co-publisher Patty Lombard, which touches on not only his son’s and family’s travels of the last few days, but also their lifelong journey with autism:
“Dear Patricia, we appreciate you and your team graciously sharing our experience. Autism, we discover more and more, is a journey. Many of us in our communities live in fear of things we don’t understand, and who fully understands autism? But we learn that the journey is the destination. Being able to share with others who can venture with us in exploring too the depths of compassion will also find great joy. We and our family continue to embrace a key component and prime directive guiding our lives in the struggle of life which is non-aggression. Providing the greatest liberty and dignity for Matthew not only enriched him and us as a family, but non-aggression and the freest expression in the context of human dignity shall also release the chains of fear so beset in our communities. Again, thanks for sharing, and may we all be enriched by Matthew’s journey through life.”
Welcome home, Matthew!