Democrat and Chronicle | Associated Press

Nicholas Simmons disappeared from his Greece, N.Y., home on New Year's Day. His family didn't know what happened to him until a photo of him warming himself on a steam grate in Washington, D.C., appeared in a USA Today section Sunday in the (Rochester, N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle.

AP photographer Jacquelyn Martin's picture of Simmons.

Simmons' sister contacted USA Today reporter Natalie DiBlasio, who in turn contacted AP photographer Jacquelyn Martin. Martin had been assigned to the White House that day, "but with President Barack Obama still on vacation in Hawaii, she spent the day looking for shots that would illustrate the cold weather," AP's Ben Nuckols reports.

She "would later guide longtime Simmons family friends from Fairfax Station, Va., to the spot outside the Federal Trade Commission building where she had taken the photograph," David Andreatta reports for the Democrat and Chronicle.

Police had taken Simmons to a hospital in Washington, where his father and brother traveled to meet him.

"It was pure dumb luck how all this happened," Sgt. David Mancuso of the Greece police told AP. In his account, Andreatta puts the cosmic level of coincidence involved into context:

To comprehend the odds of something like this happening, consider that Simmons' photo had been selected by USA TODAY from the Associated Press wire, which carries thousands of photos at any given time and often offers news outlets that subscribe to the service several different images of the same event to illustrate news stories.

USA Today rolled out its "butterfly" edition in local Gannett papers in October, and expanded the program in December.