In the last 24 hours, news has broken that the 1979 disappearance of 6-year old Etan Patz may finally be solved.
When young Etan disappeared on his way to the bus stop on March 25, 1979, the nation learned that the world was no longer as safe as it once was, particularly for children. Etan's case garnered national media attention, both for the innocent boy and for missing persons everywhere.
"The search for Patz was one of the largest, longest-lasting and most heart-wrenching hunts for a missing child in the country's recent history," reports ABC News. "His photo was among the first of a missing child to appear on a milk carton."
Sometime today, Pedro Hernandez, a former bodega store clerk, is expected to be arraigned on second degree murder charges in Etan's death. The charges happen to fall on the 33rd Anniversary of Etan's disappearance.
Hernandez, 51, was arrested Thursday after several hours of questioning by police. He ultimately confessed to murdering Etan in the basement of the bodega. Hernandez was 19 at the time and worked less than two blocks from Etan's residence.
While Etan's case did not have the ending any of us would have wanted, it highlights how answers may come at any time. Raising awareness for the missing can help bring answers and peace to their families.
New Awareness for a Dormant Case
In the years following Etan's disappearance, his case had grown cold. It was ultimately reopened in January 2010 after Etan's father, Stan Patz, pressed the new district attorney for closure and justice. But after so many years, there seemed to be little hope of finding out what happened to the sandy-haired little boy with the giant smile.
In April 2010, a round of fresh interviews led investigators to excavate a possible suspect's basement workshop. The case received national media attention once again.
While nothing was found in that suspect's basement, the new focus on the case ultimately led a tipster to call the police to check into Pedro Hernandez. When Hernandez was confronted, according to police, he quickly confessed to the murder. He expressed remorse and relief.
Lessons to be Learned
For three decades, the Patz family has endured the agony of not knowing where their child was or whether he was safe. They never moved out of their Manhattan apartment or changed their phone number in the hope their son would one day contact them.
With each suspect that has emerged--like José Ramos, a convicted child molester--nightmares about what may have happened to their son have been resurrected. They searched for Etan, talked with police about new leads and waited breathlessly as police investigated possible sightings of their son. They had their hopes dashed repeatedly.
For 33 years, the parents of Etan Patz have not known what has happened to their child, whether he was cold or hungry or scared. Whether he was even alive. But someone knew. Someone knew and said nothing.
As early as 1981, Hernandez told a relative that he had "done a bad thing and killed a child in New York." Had this person come forward, the Patz family may have been saved three decades of agony.
But it's never too late to come forward. The family of Etan Patz finally has some answers as to what happened to their son. Maybe they will also find some peace.
Today is May 25, the day of Etan's disappearance. It has been declared National Missing Children's Day by President Ronald Reagan. If you know something, anything, about a missing person, I urge you to honor this day, and Etan's memory, by coming forward.
Esposito, Richard and Goldman, Russell. (2012, May 25). Etan Patz Murder Suspect on Suicide Watch, to Be Arraigned Today. ABCNews. Retrieved May 25, 2012 from