Waunakee Man Home After ‘Occupy’ Trip

A Waunakee man who caused panic among his family when he disappeared for days is home again.

Aaron Schmidt, 18, was studying at the University of South Dakota when he decided to take a bus to New York earlier this month and experience the Occupy Wall Street movement. But the trouble was, he didn’t tell anyone he was going, and family members reported him missing.

Schmidt said he didn’t expect the trip to be a problem.

“It kind of got out of control when I was reported missing,” said Schmidt, who spent two days in New York. “Yes, I should’ve told my parents, and I should’ve let them know that I was OK.”

The freshman political science student purchased a Greyhound bus ticket from Vermillion, S.D., to New York. His family tracked the purchase through police and, when Schmidt checked his cellphone messages after two days of camping out, he realized family members were in New York looking for him.

“They were just happy I was OK,” he said, adding that he only expected to spend one or two more days in New York before returning home. “It was just a relief (for them).”

Schmidt said he would make the 1,300 mile trip again, because he’s always been an activist.

“You have to make a stand for something you’re interested in or you believe in,” Schmidt said. “I’d rather go out and be a participant than be sitting in the background.”

The Waunakee High School graduate has been back in Wisconsin for a couple of weeks, adding he isn’t attending college anymore. He said he intends to get a job in the Waunakee area and work on the recall effort against Gov. Scott Walker in his free time.

Schmidt said there was a lot to learn in New York from the hundreds camped out in tents and along the ground in the city’s Zuccotti Park.

“Everyone has their own personal reason why they’re there,” he said. “Whether they’re down on their luck or even if they’re fine but they see someone else who’s down on their luck.”