Today is the 33rd anniversary of the day Etan Patz, a New York City 6 years old disappeared. He was on his way to his school bus stop – the first time he was allowed to go alone. He never returned home.
That day changed how we looked at things, caused us sadness for his family, and fear for our own children. Brought to national attention by the media and his picture being posted on milk cartons, all parents now had to worry, would my child be next?
I lived in a city close to NYC as a child. I can tell you in 1959, it wasn’t like that. Our parents didn’t show any sign of worry as they pushed us out of the apartment in the morning and off to school. I was 4 years old and walked ten city blocks to Catholic school. And yet, I don’t remember ever being afraid.
I know Etan wasn’t the first child to ever go missing, and I know he won’t be the last. Today is the anniversary of the day that changed the way we view other adults. It turned any interaction by another adult with our child from “innocent” to potential “suspicious behavior.” Somehow the realization that Etan (or any child) could be snatched on his way to the bus and never returned shakes any parent to this day. It’s the day that started us watching, waiting and doing all we can to avoid the unthinkable – losing our child to some stranger. It made us hold them close and not let them be a free to be children as they once were.
Is it good, or is it bad? I think it’s a little of both. I am happy to see that parents care enough about their children to take them to the bus stop and wait for the bus to arrive. I am happy to see them paying attention and holding onto them in the stores and around town. I am happy they installed GPS to the school buses – but down deep and overall I am sorry it’s all necessary. And despite all of our efforts, kids still go missing.