Police in New York have arrested a man for allegedly luring 6-year old Etan Patz off a Soho street before strangling him in a basement, in 1979. A former bodega stock clerk has been at the center of the investigation for weeks and it appears he will be arraigned in a lower Manhattan courtroom today. This is timely because the disappearance of young Patz on May 25, 1979 was the impetus to recognize the plight of missing children with the establishment of National Missing Children’s Day. This day serves as an annual reminder of the importance of child safety and efforts to find and reunite missing children with their families.
There are conflicting numbers when you speak of missing children. As many as 800,000 children are reported missing each year, but the good news is that many of those children are found within hours. The disturbing news is that many times children are caught in the middle of familial disputes, and actually abducted by people they know and trust. And, the harsh reality is that over 100 children are truly abducted each year by strangers. These children may never be found. Like young Etan Patz, his parents may never have answers about his disappearance or facts may surface decades later. Can you imagine the anguish his parents have endured?
There are so many names we’ve come to know since Etan’s disappearance, names like Elizabeth Smart, Samantha Runnion, Adam Walsh, Alicia Kozakiewicz and Polly Klaas. Though their stories are different, the fact remains that these innocent children were taken from safe and loving families, some never to return again, others to be found after enduring torture, rape and pain. Each of these families could have slipped into despair and hatred for the world around them, but instead fight for the safety of children everywhere.
Let’s join them on this day of remembrance and as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reminds us – Take 25 – just take 25 minutes out of your day to talk to your kids. Remind them they are loved and that you will do all in your power to keep them safe. Use the Take 25 site for discussion guidelines and activities.
Adam Walsh was abducted from a Florida shopping mall and brutally murdered in 1981. Since then, his father John has spent his life working to protect children and helped to encourage the establishment of NCMEC, which was opened in June of 1984, serving as a Resource Center and Clearinghouse for Missing and Exploited Children. Tools like the CyberTipline and Amber Alerts help the amazing people at NCMEC work tirelessly day and night to restore families and to save children.
Survivors and child advocates, Elizabeth Smart and Alicia Kozakiewicz have teamed up for Not One More Child through both of their foundations. Watch their video on YouTube and check out their foundations: The Elizabeth Smart Foundation and The Alicia’s Project . Alicia is studying psychology and forensics and has said, “I’d like to ultimately become the person who rescues the child, and then helps to recover that child’s soul.”
Precious 5-year old Samantha Runnion was kidnapped from her Orange County yard and murdered in 2002. Since her daughter’s untimely death, Erin Runnion has been an outspoken advocate of child safety and preventing crimes against children. She has established The Joyful Child Foundation in memory of her daughter. Runnion and Elizabeth Smart have both come out in support of an innovative program called radKIDS, a self empowerment education program for children. RadKIDS (Resisting Aggression Defensively) teaches children self-esteem and self-worth while helping break the cycle of violence in children’s lives.
Twelve-year old Polly Klaas was kidnapped at knife point from a slumber party in her own home in 1993. Her remains were found just two months later, but the difference in Polly’s case was the technology used to start the search. Residents in Polly’s home town reached out to syndicated computer columnist Larry Magid and together the three of them found ways to help the police look for children using the Internet for the first time. The Polly Klaas Foundation offers free child safety kits and safety tips on what you can do to protect your children.
Even as Etan Patz’ parents wait for news about his alleged kidnapper; other families may never know the end to their children’s stories. But as caregivers, parents, teachers and child advocates we can do all in our power to echo Elizabeth and Alicia’s words – NOT ONE MORE CHILD. Find a way today….