FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT www.couriersun.com MARCH 27, 2014 • The Courier SUN 3 FILE PHOTO Avonte Oquendo’s brother, Daniel, recounts what his family went through during the four months searching for the autistic teen. ‘SON OF THE CITY’ Brother remembers Avonte BY ANGY ALTAMIRANO email@example.com @aaltamirano28 One of Avonte Oquendo’s older brothers said his family suffered “years of torture” every minute the 14-year-old autistic boy was missing. Daniel Oquendo, Jr. described the agony in a March 21 blog post for the advocacy organization Autism Speaks. “Every minute we spent in the dark about the whereabouts felt like years of torture,” Oquendo wrote. He recounted the fear and pain his family felt as they tried to find Avonte, who could not verbally communicate. During the first few days the family did not sleep, barely ate and felt as if they had nowhere to turn, Oquendo wrote. The teen was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City, across the street from the East River in October. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point. According to Oquendo, Avonte may have been in a frightened and panicked state after running out of his school, possibly falling or jumping into the East River. The medical examiner ruled the cause and manner of Avonte’s death as undetermined. Oquendo wrote that as his family was “overcome with grief and hopelessness,” they turned to the people of New York City to work together and gather volunteers to search for Avonte. As word began to spread, they encountered help from New Yorkers and out-of-state volunteers, and he thanked everyone for their dedication and prayers. “It turns out that before it was all said and done Avonte did indeed become the beloved son of the city,” Oquendo wrote. Photo courtesy Bob Holden The U.S. Coast Guard treated Middle Village resident Colin Flood, who is battling leukemia, with a visit and personal tour of a helicopter. UPS workers want meeting with management BY LIAM LA GUERE firstname.lastname@example.org @liamlaguerre Ousted UPS workers are hoping their message to management is deliverable. Negotiations between the shipping giant and the union that represents its drivers haven’t advanced since a rally on March 21, and are likely to go to arbitration, according to Teamsters Local 804. Elected officials and UPS workers held the rally in front of the company’s Maspeth distribution center to save the jobs of 250 drivers—more than half the fleet—who were recently handed termination slips. The cuts were made after workers for the parcel delivery service rallied— while on the job—on February 26. The first meeting protested the firing of Jairo Reyes, a UPS employee of 24 years. The company showed Reyes no love on Valentine’s Day, when he was fired, escorted out of the facility, and had his employee card taken away — effectively locking him out. “That was my Valentine’s Day gift from UPS,” said Reyes, who is married with two children. Teamsters Local 804 said Reyes should have had a hearing and meeting with his business agent before getting the hook. Reyes filed a grievance with two coworkers before he was fired, arguing that junior workers were allowed to start earlier than their seniors, but the employee contract states earlier start times are based on seniority, Reyes said. He was fired officially for “admitted dishonesty” because he started his shifts earlier. But Reyes said a manager verbally okayed his punching-in early, starting from January 6. “They took a grievance with one employee and turned it into notices of termination with 250 workers,” Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer said. “That’s outrageous. These are good, hardworking employees who have a contract for UPS. To try and break this contract, break this union, is something that is unacceptable and we can’t tolerate.” The company and the union were in ongoing talks about workers’ grievances, but negotiations broke down recently. Then UPS decided to axe the 250 workers for “illegal and unauthorized work stoppage,” following the THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre initial rally. “UPS takes its commitments to its customers very seriously, and must take action to ensure unauthorized employee actions resulting in refusal to work, does not prevent the company from meeting its service and delivery commitments,” the company said in a statement. Union representatives and Public Advocate Letitia James passed along a petition with more than 100,000 signatures after the demonstration on March 21, to get the company to negotiate a settlement. Reyes hopes to at least get his job back. “I’ve dedicated my years to the company, my passion, my life. That would be good to have my job back,” he said. “I have a family to support.” UPS workers rally outside the Maspeth facility after the company cut 250 drivers. FLOOD OF LOVE BY LIAM LA GUERE email@example.com @liamlaguerre It was a cool day for 8-year-old Colin Flood on March 24 in more ways than just the weather. Flood, who is battling his second round of acute lymphocytic leukemia, received special gifts from the U.S. Coast Guard, which landed a helicopter in a closed off Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village, just for him. The Coast Guard wanted to treat Flood to the helicopter visit because they learned he is a fan of TV show “Coast Guard Alaska.” Members of the Coast Guard air crew gave Flood a tour of the helicopter and a picture of it. Flood also received a Coast Guard hat and T-shirt along with unit patches and a personal name tag. Then members of the nearby 104th Precinct and the U.S. Coast Guard members took pictures with him. “It meant a lot to us to see the happiness on Colin’s face and to be able to fulfill his dream to see a Coast Guard helicopter up close and personal,” said John Keeley, special agent of Coast Guard Investigative Services. About two years ago, Flood was in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant and there was a successful collection drive in the neighborhood, where thousands of people volunteered to be tested. The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Flood’s wish to go to Walt Disney World Resort in November last year.
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