If this doesn't get you all teary-eyed and verklempt, we're not sure what will. Not that, you know, we are or anything. Because faith in humanity... snooze. Nope, our hearts felt nothing when we heard that a family re-created a beloved local Blockbuster store at home — to soothe their autistic son.
Hector Andres Zuniga is 20. He is nonverbal and has autism, and he's been making trips to the nearby Blockbuster video rental store since he was 13. Typically, he'd visit the Sharyland, Texas, store at least twice a week to grab snacks and rent his favorite flicks, usually Rugrats, Blue's Clues or anything with Elmo in it.
The staff at the store knew Hector well. When they found out the store would be closing (Blockbuster declared bankruptcy in 2010), they made a point of breaking the news in person to his mother, Rosa.
Rosa phoned her husband, Hector Sr., and proposed an idea: What if they purchased some of the inventory that their Blockbuster would soon be selling off and re-created the store environment for their son at home to lessen the blow?
(Not sniffling at all. That's totally you.)
“[Hector Andres] is a happy-go-lucky kid,” Hector Sr. said. “He’s all heart, he’s very tender, but like anyone else, he has bad days. And we knew one of those bad days were around the corner when we found out that the Blockbuster was about to close.”
So Hector Sr. and Rosa secretly bought up the Blockbuster's DVDs, signs and video rack, bit by bit. The employees were thrilled to be in on the big surprise for Hector Andres and set aside for his parents any items they were sure he would love.
“Those employees really came out to bat for my son,” Hector Sr. said. “They really paid attention and did a hell of a job."
April 23 was the store's official closing day. Hector Andres' parents wanted him to understand the store was closing, so they took him there.
“He made a beeline to the area where he usually rents movies,” Hector Sr. said. “And there was nothing there. The shelves that usually had his DVDs were already gone.” Gahhh.
“He understood, I could see it in his eyes,” his father said. “And he almost started having a meltdown.”
It could have been a horrible crisis moment for Hector Andres and his family. But Hector Sr. took his son's hands and said, "This place is closing, but it's OK. We have a surprise for you at home."
And what a surprise: a spare room in the house converted into his very own at-home Blockbuster full of the videos and signs he loved.
Excuse us while we bawl like babies for two seconds. OK. Four. Maybe five.
Mission accomplished: Hector Andres took it all in — then thanked his father in a very personal way.
“His way of saying ‘I love you,’ is by going up to you and grabbing your earlobe,” Hector Sr. said. “So he came up to me and grabbed my ear...it was one of those moments that us parents live for.”
The Zunigas are one of those families we live for. What an incredible way of showing love for an autistic son who was facing the potentially devastating loss of something calming and familiar.
Hector Andres' younger brother Javier posted several photos of the Zunigas' amazing gift on Twitter. Not surprisingly, those pics went viral: more than 117,000 likes and 29,000 retweets.
Hector Sr. summed up the whole experience:
“Every once in a while everything just seems to work,” he said. “And this time, it just did.”
We most certainly agree.