Thursday, May 23, 2024

Etan Patz: National Missing Children’s Day – May 25

This weekend is Memorial Day. Many are planning trips to see family and friends, celebrating the coming of summer, while remembering those who have sacrificed their lives for this nation. With all the excitement, it can be easy to over look another important day, National Missing Children’s Day. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 25 as National Missing Children’s Day, as a way to remind the public about missing children and to remind parents and guardians of the importance of having high quality photographs of children.

The Etan Patz case, along with others during this time, brought to light a building problem in the United States; missing children and how to find them. Until this time, states worked independently with no coordination between federal, state, and local law enforcement. The media was often uninvolved in cases and it was near impossible to inform those in other cities and states about a missing child. Etan Patz was remarkable because of the national media attention it gained and the way that people all over the country were trying to help. Due to Etan Patz’s case and a case in Atlanta, Georgia, where 29 missing children were found murdered, the way that our country handled missing children cases was forever changed. President Reagan signed into law the Missing Children’s Assistance Act of 1984, which was the foundation for changes regarding missing children response procedures.

Etan Patz was just six years old when he disappeared from the SoHo district of New York City in 1979. Etan was walking to the school bus stop for the first time by himself. His mother, Julie Patz watched him walk to the corner of their street. From there, it was only 150 feet to the bus stop. Etan never made it. Somewhere in that 150 feet, he disappeared. The Etan Patz case was one of the first to garner nation-wide media attention. Etan Patz was the first child to appear on the side of a milk carton. For weeks, Etan Patz was all over the news. Posters of him were all over the city, yet, despite an exhaustive search by New York Police Department, the case ran cold. In 2001, the Patz family filed to have Etan formally declared dead.

Over 35 years after Etan’s disappearance, police believe they finally caught Etan’s kidnapper and murderer, Pedro Hernandez. Hernandez worked at a small food store along the route Etan walked to the bus stop. Police allege, and Hernandez confessed, to luring Etan into the store where Etan was strangled before being placed in a plastic bag and dumped him out with the trash. Etan’s body has never been recovered. A recent trial ended in a hung jury with one juror refusing to vote guilty. A retrial for Hernandez is scheduled to begin in September of 2016.

Please pray for all the missing children. Pray for their safety and their recovery.

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