There's no escaping the sadness that hangs over the family of Etan Patz today. Police in New York City think they "might" have located the body of the missing 6-year-old who graced the side of a milk carton 33 years ago. Human remains sniffed up by a cadaver dog have been linked by cops to the first child to ever have his photo show up in the dairy case at grocery stores around the country. And once again, this little boy could be changing the way the world looks at missing persons cases.
These days, pictures of missing kids are everywhere. Commercial breaks of TV newscasts ask us, "Have you seen ...?" Billboards project faces of children at us as we hurdle down the highway. This is the legacy of Etan Patz.
Now. Think fast: when's the last time you paid attention to one? Really paid attention?
I'm ashamed to admit it, but I know I've zoned out more than once during one of those commercial breaks. When I saw a billboard on the highway during my vacation last week, I glanced and moved on. When I get the flyers in my mailbox, I throw them in the recycling bin.
I'm not proud that I do it. But there are just. so. many. Like a song on the radio that gets played out, the means of grabbing attention for the plight of these missing kids is no longer effective because of the sheer volume of attention-grabbing materials out there.
And yet, today, looking at the photos of Etan Patz, reading the story of how he walked off to his school bus stop and never came back, I felt guilty. I felt angry. I felt ... re-energized? Because here this little boy has been missing for 33 years, and his family has been in hell. HELL. And we can't take a few minutes to look at a flyer?
There is no escaping the sadness of what is going on in New York City today. Because if they decide that the remains in the Manhattan basement is Etan's body for sure, that means this family has to face that horror. And if they don't, that means more questions, more not knowing.
But maybe there can be one good thing to come out of this? We can use the reminder of that first little boy on the milk carton to once again make these missing kids a priority ... for everyone.
What do you do with missing persons flyers? Be honest.
Here's more on Etan's case to refresh your memory: