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Avonte Oquendo: The story that touched a city

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GREENWICH VILLAGE, Manhattan (PIX11) — He was a child of the city, who touched our hearts. Just look at the line of mourners waiting to get into St. Joseph’s Church. The crowd was made up of relatives and friends, but mostly an extended family of strangers who felt a connection to the teen with autism.

“The story has touched me. I prayed for him, I cried for him many days to be found,” mourner Claire Thaxton said.

Shortly after Avonte wandered off from his school, into a world in which he could not communicate, his mother went public with a plea for his safe return. It got peoples attention.  And what started as a search turned into a citywide movement.


The prayer card for Avonte Oquendo, distributed at his wake Saturday morning. (Mary Jacob/PIX11 News)

Maria Tapia was among the many at the funeral Saturday, who searched on foot, week after week, only to learn the human remains found along the East River were Avonte’s.

“My heart just dropped ’cause I really didnt think a boy so innocent deserved the way that he died. Just really sad,” she said.

Avonte’s plight really hit home for John Sigmund. He has a family member with autism.

“I just saw his face every morning on my commute and felt personally affected by it. I didn’t know him but I felt like I know him and thought of him everyday. I’ll just never forget his face,” he said.