Two months after a teenage boy with autism walked out of his queens school and vanished, his mother is still working to find him. For the first time in more than a month, his mother is speaking out about his disappearance and on the latest steps to bring him home. NY1’s Arlene Borenstein filed this exclusive report.
"Nobody knows how empty I feel without my son,” Vanessa Fontaine
The days spent away from her boy are weighing heavily on Vanessa Fontaine, the mother of 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, who walked out of his Long Island City public school on October 4th.
He's been missing ever since. Fontaine keeps playing over in her mind the morning she sent him off to school.
"Do you think about that moment?” she was asked.
“Yeah. That I wish I never sent him to school,” said Fontaine.
The mother of five grew up in Astoria and is a medical case manager, but now dedicates all of her time to the search for her son.
Fontaine recently moved Avonte's search headquarters from out in front of the Riverview school where the boy went missing to an indoor space in Astoria. With temperatures dropping, it's a place loved ones and volunteers can keep warm.
"If you can give any of your time, it doesn't have to be that much, it can be an hour just to help me do flyers or go post,” she said.
The family says they're paying for the space, but that the owner of the building gave them a break on rent, allowing a month to month lease. Fontaine says she is there seven days a week, when it opens at 9 a.m. to when it closes at 9 p.m., sometimes later.
But with the holidays upon them, Avonte's absence is overwhelming, making it difficult for the family to stay strong.
"I just want everybody to understand while you're with your family on this holiday. I would like my son home with me,” she said.
This is the most recent flyer in the search for Avonte. Family members wrote “Still Missing” at the top in fear people have stopped searching thinking Avonte has been found.
“It's a very weird feeling, I feel an emptiness,” said Doris McCoy, Avonte’s grandmother.
The NYPD says it's followed up on more than 725 tips that have come in so far and will continue to follow tips that come in. Fontaine says she feels hopeful Avonte is alive.
"This is the month of miracles and I'm hoping that he will come home before Christmas,” Fontaine said.
She asks that everyone keep their eyes open because the next person who passes by could be Avonte.