Michael Karwan returned to New Jersey Wednesday night. With his brief trip to Cleveland behind him, he seemed content to be reunited with his family.
"We embraced, we cried, and I just told him that I loved him and he told me that he missed me and we just embraced for a good few minutes and cried," said Walter Karwan, Michael's father.
19-year-old Michael Karwan is autistic, and his father said he had never shown any signs that he could be independent for any length of time before.
But on November 19th, he walked out of his parents' home, apparently suffering some anxiety, and he was gone.
"I probably aged 10 or 15 years over the past seven days, but that's OK because it was all worth it," Walter Karwan said.
As with Avonte Oquendo, the autistic teenager who ran away from his Long Island City school in October, a massive, multi-state search began.
There were posters and search groups for Michael, at times coming tantalizingly close, like when his family was searching in Freehold.
"He was literally a mile away or two away from where we were canvassing," Walter Karwan said.
It has been a stressful run for the Karwan family. There were times when Mr. Karwan said he nearly lost hope, but was buoyed only by the spirits of his wife. Tuesday, when the police showed up at their home, he was certain they were there to tell them very bad news. But, it turned out to be an altogether different conversation.
"But then they told me they found Michael, we were all just ecstatic, we were screaming and yelling. I think they got more hugs yesterday than they really wanted," Walter Karwan said.
How Michael got the bus ticket to Cleveland, or why he went there in the first place, remain mysteries. Walter Karwan said he didn't want to put any pressure on his son just yet to answer questions. There will be plenty of time now to sort it all out.