Community comes out in support of missing Linden middle school teacher

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LINDEN / RAHWAY, NJ — Rahway resident Brian Gooney, a paraprofessional at Joseph E. Soehl Middle School in Linden, has been missing since Tuesday, March 9. More than 100 members of the Linden community came together for a “Bring Brian Home” rally at Tiger Stadium at Cooper Field on Friday, March 19, along with school administrators, staff members from throughout Linden Public Schools and the Gooney family.

“We want to increase public awareness to help us help his family locate him and bring him home safely and to also provide any information on what may have happened to Mr. Gooney,” Superintendent of Linden Public Schools Marnie Hazelton said on Friday, March 19.

“If Mr. Gooney is out there and has access to the media, (we hope) that he will see that we are actively looking for him and that his family desperately wants him to return to them safely. We’re hoping that this may inspire him or motivate him to return or, if he’s with someone, this may move them to help Brian return home or someone may be able to provide a clue or lead to the Rahway Police Department regarding exactly what happened to Mr. Gooney on Tuesday night, March 9.”

Rattled by the disappearance of her brother, Gooney’s only sister, Bernadette Gooney, said she is determined to know whether her brother is safe. She just wants him home.

“We’re just trying to do everything to try to find Brian,” Bernadette Gooney said on Friday, March 19. “He walked out of his apartment last Tuesday, March 9, at around 9 p.m. If anyone saw him that night, around the downtown Rahway area, please call the police department. We’re just trying to do everything to make everyone aware that he is missing. He’s a wonderful brother and an absolutely great guy.

“We talk a lot on Facebook messenger,” Bernadette Gooney said. “We don’t speak that much. I’m an ICU nurse that has been dealing with all the COVID patients this past year, and I would not go anywhere near the family for that reason. But my hope is that he’s found someplace and that he’s alive, but, either way, we just want him home, whether it’s home with God or home with us.”

Gooney’s brother, Patrick Gooney, and Patrick’s wife, Karen, said they are beside themselves over his disappearance.

“We feel shocked,” Karen Gooney said on Friday, March 19. “We feel shocked, scared and nervous, but so happy that the Board of Education has done so much for us. They’ve gone above and beyond to help us find Brian. The Rahway Police Department, the Linden Police Department; everyone has stepped up to help him, but we need more. We need to find him. This has been going on for 10 days now and we have no leads. We have nothing, and it’s frustrating. We don’t sleep at night. We just need him home.”

“I feel the same — just really nervous. Not knowing is the hardest part,” Patrick Gooney said on Friday, March 19.

Although Linden Mayor Derek Armstead was unable to attend the rally because of an offsite meeting, the city was represented by Linden public information officer Malaysia Thomas, who said the mayor sent his heartfelt prayers to the Gooney family in the search for their loved one.

“We are hoping that this helps Brian come home,” said Thomas on Friday, March 19. “We had a huge turnout in hopes that this will spread the word and help find him.”
Linden Education Association president and ESL teacher Eloy Delgado said he believes this call to action will help in Gooney’s safe return home.

“One of our beloved colleagues has gone missing for the 10th day and we’re just trying to bring about awareness so that if anyone knows any information or has seen anything, please contact the proper authorities. We miss him dearly and without him being back, we’re hurting,” Delgado said on Friday, March 19. “I think this will help, because we live in the most densely populated state in the United States. In the tristate area, there’s cameras everywhere, so the more people get to see his face, someone has to know something. There’s someone out there that has the information we need to bring Brian home.”

The family and the Rahway Police Department are asking anyone who knows of Gooney’s whereabouts or who has seen him to call 732-827-2200.

Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman