The SoHo of the 1970s had a gritty reputation even before Etan’s disappearance, but it still felt like “a little town” of familiar faces, said Paul Tschinkel, 72, who lived in the neighborhood when Etan went missing.
The disappearance “was a turning point,” he said, forever altering the way he raised his children, born shortly thereafter. “I became suspicious of things,” he said, standing near the Patz family’s apartment on Prince Street." - New York Times, May 25, 2012
It was a turning point forever in the lives of American families.
Ours was one of them.
Etan's disappearance, along with other highly visible abductions changed the way we parented.
Fear of everyone took the place of kindness. At best, parents were aloof towards strangers who approached us about our kids. I saw it with all my friends - all of them.
Terribly crippling. The increasing number of faces on the morning's milk cartons told us that "hundreds, if not thousands" of children were being stolen.
And that generation - my generation - of parents became self-focused, self-centered protectors fo their loved ones against a force they could not see, but was sure existed.
And we continue to see the results of that fear-based child-centeredness today - in communities of faith and non-faith alike. The children of those days are in their late 20's and early 30's... and many remain at home alone (or with their significant other) or simply just ungrown.
Our nation - and many of us, as parents - decided to raise a nation of children.
And that's what we got.
We raised children, rather than adults. Many of the kids decided to grow up, despite their parents' fears and worried/hurried schedules.
All out of fear.
Starting with the death of Etan Patz.
At least today, we have the name and face of the man who killed more than a little boy that day, as terrible as that was.
May the new generation of parents have a mid-course correction and live in the freedom that really is there rather than the decades-old spectre of things invisible - except to a fearful person's imagination.