I wanted the case of missing Leiby Kletzky to have a happy ending. I wanted a local Brooklyn family to stumble across the 8-year-old in a playground alive and well, a little dirty and probably hungry for a home-cooked meal, but alive and well after spending a couple of days exploring the streets, riding the swings past dark, and being a pint-sized rebel with a story to tell like a badge of honor.
I wanted a happy ending like that because no child deserves what happened to Leiby. No parent should have to endure what the Kletzkys are going through. And I wanted it because it all happened near to where I live.
I live in Brooklyn, NY, and yes, it's a big borough with a lot of neighborhoods that have different communities. But so many parts of Brooklyn -- where I live, where Leiby lived and died -- are tight-knit communities where while you may not be invited to every neighborhood kid's birthday party, you do look out for them. The kind of neighborhood where if you find a Sophie the Giraffe toy on the ground, you place it on the nearest stoop so if the mom comes back looking for it, she will find it more easily. The kind of community where you have a sense of security that if your 8-year-old asks if he can walk seven blocks to meet you after day camp, you say yes. Because you've walked those seven blocks together tons of times, you pass familiar faces on those seven blocks, you frequent the shops on those seven blocks.
Seven blocks. That's not far in Brooklyn. Leiby is thought to have lost his way somewhere within those seven blocks he had to walk to meet his mother. It's been reported that he asked for directions and the neighborhood man he happened to see on the sidewalk at that exact moment in time turned out to be the man who would murder him. Dismember his body and store some of his parts in his freezer. Other parts in a suitcase. More parts in the garbage in another Brooklyn neighborhood.
Parts that made up the life of a beautiful young boy.
It's hard to accept that a person would do this to another person. Harder to accept that a person would do this to a child. Terrifying to accept that this was random.
Police commissioner Ray Kelly believes that Leiby was snatched from the street just 35 minutes after he left camp. Just about the time his mother probably started to get anxious wondering where he was.
Crimes against children have always hit me hard, though now that I am a mother to 19-month-old twins, it hits me worse. My heart hurts for Mrs. Kletzky. I start fearing my own neighbors. The stoops I put Sophie the Giraffe or a little boy's blue shoe on ... do they belong to murderers? Evil people waiting for an opportunity to do harm to neighborhood kids?
I know I cannot live in fear of everything. It's hard enough that I fear flying and extremely tall buildings because I saw the Twin Towers fall with my own two eyes. It's hard enough to feel safe in the city I was born in because of the reputation Brooklyn has, but I do ... I did. Now I worry that I cannot take my eyes off my kids for one second because it could be the very people among me waiting to do something unthinkable. Now I am even more worried about them when they are with a sitter at one of our local parks. The risk is too great. Free-range parenting? That's like an invitation to those looking for prey.
I did feel safe in my bubble in Brooklyn, my community. But so did Leiby. So did Leiby's mom. But a local man named Levi Aron took advantage of that. No one knows why, but the why doesn't matter. It won't bring Leiby back. It won't heal the Kletzys. It won't help me feel any safer or make me worry any less.
How do you shake these feelings of fear when you hear stories like this? Can you? Does it change how you parent?
Image via YouTube