As we head into the long holiday weekend – with the summer months stretching out ahead – it is appropriate to take a moment today to mark “Missing Children’s Awareness Day,” so designated by the federal government.
May 25 was chosen as Missing Children’s Awareness day nearly 30 years ago – in 1983 – in memory Etan Patz, the six-year-old New York City boy who disappeared while walking to his school bus stop in 1979. The anniversary is especially poignant this year because just yesterday a man in New Jersey came forward and confessed to Patz’s long-unsolved death. Today, the day chosen in Etan’s honor, he was charged with murder in a New York court. There could hardly be a more poignant way to mark this year’s Missing Children’s Awareness Day.
According to radio station KUIK, Oregon’s state records show that as of late last month 464 children were listed as missing here in our state. The radio station, citing state law enforcement sources, reports that of the children on that state list “about 90% are runaways.” Injuries to children are a constant worry for many parents, but the added burden of fearing for a child’s day-to-day safety while having little or no idea where to find them is something no one should ever have to go through.
The good news is that studies by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children “found that in 81 percent of the cases the child escaped would-be abductors through their own actions.” It goes on to quote an Oregon state police spokesperson saying, “we know teaching children about safety works.”
So let’s pause today here in Oregon and elsewhere around the country to remember children who are missing, to give thanks that Etan Patz’s family may soon, after so many years, find some form of closure and also to consider what each of us can do to make Oregon, and the world, a safer place for kids.