Today is May 25th, National Missing Children's Day. Thirty-three years ago Etan Patz walked alone to his bus stop for the first time. His mother watched him walk as he walked the two blocks to his bus stop until he was out of vision. It was the last time she would see her son alive. He never made it to school and never returned home.
I've heard this story recited many times, by my Mother. I heard the whispers of adults hypothesising what may have happened to him and all the evil forces in the world waiting to prey on small children. I've had nightmares where I was walking to the bus stop with my lunch box and my Mother watching me walk down the street, as she often did. I recited the rules of stranger danger in my head. Never would I be coaxed by candy or a lost puppy. I spoke to no one but my friends and their parents, if a stranger asked for directions or the time, I ignored them completely, lest I end up like poor Etan.
Etan was only 6 years old when he disappeared, so was I. He was born on October 1, 1972 just 17 days after I was. He lived in New York just like me. His disappearance framed my childhood. Innocence was gone, there was evil in the world. Although I did not know the details of what those evil things were, adult whispers and comments after seeing shirt less pictures of him gave me the idea it had to do with the 'bad touching' my Mother told me about.
Although life has gone on and I have had a child of my own to worry about, I never forgot about Etan. I never forgot his name or his smiling face, that stared at me from the back of a milk carton for many years. Every few years, someone would come out that resembled him slightly and there would be hype about whether not they had found him. Sometimes I'd see a computer generated picture of how he may look now. I think I would recognize him at any age. Finally, in 2001 Etan Patz was declared legally dead.
In April, was watching the news when I saw an bulletin that the police and the FBI were excavating a basement in his Soho neighborhood. I sat upright when I saw his name streaming along the bottom of the screen. Would they finally find his remains? Will they catch whoever abducted him? Would his ever parents get closure? Dare I say I was disappointed that they didn't find any signs of human remains. I just wanted it to finally be over.
Then yesterday, May 24th, one day before the 33rd anniversary of his disappearance, the police arrested someone for the murder of Etan Patz. Pedro Hernandez, a 19 year old stock boy at the time, worked at the deli Etan would have gone to that morning. He admitted to strangling and dismembering Etan. He said he disposed of the body in garbage bags. As of right now, 12:30am 5/25/12, no motive has been given.
So that's it? Why? And what motivated the now 51 year old Hernandez to confess? I heard the police received a tip that led them to Hernandez, who now a resides of New Jersey. What made the informant finally step forward?
I really hope his parents get the answers to these questions. I really hope they get peace. And also, I hope for peace for little Etan Patz.