Thursday, July 23, 2009

Do You Read the Milk Carton?

Rarely does a book cause us to substantively change our behavior. After Etan, however, did just that for me. It's a new book about a famous missing child case from 1979 that changed the way missing child searches were conducted. It reads like an episode of Law & Order, so if you're a fan of what Matt calls "CPCDs" (cliche procedural crime dramas), you probably wouldn't be able to put this book down (as I wasn't).

It was after reading just a couple chapters of this book that I decided I would never again just throw away those "missing child" flyers one gets in the mail, or change the channel when an Amber Alert is announced. From now on, I decided, I will always read the (metaphorical) milk carton.
I won't get your hopes up about Etan. Despite the thousands of posters distributed about him, the mystery was not solved that way--but the book did bring to life for me the sheer terror a parent must feel when their child goes missing, and getting that child's picture out there is huge in tracking where the child might be. If--God forbid--something like that were to happen to Kate, you can bet I would be begging people to memorize her face and be aware of the children around them so they could recognize her if they saw her. Wouldn't you, if it were your child?

This morning, I saw this tweet: "From WSMV-TV: Child Found After Amber Alert Issued: A 14-year-old boy was found safe early Thursday.. " Missing children can be found. In this case, the staff or guests at a hotel saw the teen when his non-custodial parent and her boyfriend checked in with him.
I urge you, if this is not already your practice: take a minute to read those flyers, tv news bulletins, and highway signs. Look for something distinctive about that child's appearance, and commit it to memory. You could save a child's life and be a parent's hero forever.

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