This is dedicated to the family and friends of Autumn Pasquale.
Autumn Pasquale, the 12 year-old girl who went missing in Clayton, N.J. was found yesterday, but it wasn’t the happy ending we were hoping her family would see. Autumn, the young girl who could have been any and every parent’s daughter, is gone.
While the search went on, I had a small debate with another poster who predicted this outcome. He was lambasted for his cynicism and lack of hope. I was reserved in my own comments, but still chastised him for his lack of faith.
And now that his dire prediction proved true, I have to say that my own faith is waning.
I can remember—back in the ‘70’s when I was Autumn’s age—my walking to school. It was a mile and a half trek (each way) and my parents thought nothing of my doing it. I was taught never to get into a stranger’s car, never to speak to them. It was advice I thankfully never had to use.
Today I’m the father of a six year-old girl, and I find myself shopping online for GPS child locators. Kids are being snatched within yards of their front doors, and being escorted to bus stops right outside their houses.
What the hell happened? The answer: nothing. The monsters were always there; we’re just better equipped to advertise their atrocities today.
We’re more aware of these crimes, thanks to globally-available media sources that are updated by the minute. Leopold and Loeb abducted and killed young Bobby Franks in 1924, and that was one of the first times such a case made national headlines. Eight years later, in 1932, Charles Lindbergh, Jr. was taken and killed with similar news coverage.
Over 800,000 kids go missing each year. Of those, about 400,000 are runaways, with a comparatively small percentage (about 0.0375% of the remaining 400,000) constituting “The Nightmare Scenario” of a child taken for unspeakable reasons by strangers.
While I won’t ever minimize the problems of teenage runaways—or kids missing for any reason—it’s the 150 kids taken by strangers every year that scares me most as a parent. That’s almost one every two days. These are kids just like Autumn…thrust into the same horrific encounter.
And never mind that 150 is a “small percentage”. Today it’s Autumn’s family that lost that particular lottery. In a day or two it’ll be another.
So the statistics really mean nothing. Let the politicians talk “rarities” in these types of kidnappings. I’d prefer to talk about the problem as a whole. 150 kids can fill over five good-sized classrooms. Seeing the picture from that stark perspective reveals a far bleaker image.
There are those who want to examine the problem empirically. They want to examine the reasons people do bad things to kids.
I’m all for the scientific approach, but I also think it’s time to stop empathizing with the perpetrators. To my mind, you relinquish your right to sympathy once you make someone else pay for your hardship. At some point we need to distinguish a human being by deeds as well as physiology. Yes, we are a potentially violent species. But someone who molests and/or kills a child (and has no mental deficiency other than a propensity to commit those acts) no longer deserves the label homo sapiens.
If we can do that, we can move on to appropriate punishment—swift punishment—for these animals in human skin. If that seems harsh, keep in mind that I’m no legislator or public figure; I’m a parent. If emotion leaks through during my reflections on the murder of a young girl, so be it.
But it’s 3:00 PM on October 23rd. If you follow the statistics, another child will be ripped from his or her family in the next 48 hours.
As I say, I’m losing hope. I do, however, continue to hold onto some.
For example, I hope that all missing kids are reunited safely with loved ones. I hope that—through whatever means—the “small percentage” becomes smaller still until these acts become virtually unheard of.
I hope Pasquale’s family and friends find comfort and solace in their monumental grief.
And lastly, I hope for hope itself.