..Jon Simonds..

Protecting Our Children

Etan Patz was an adorable six-year-old child. His sandy blonde hair was neatly cut and his blue eyes were captivating. His home was the Soho section of New York City, a piece of real estate on the island of Manhattan, South of Houston Street. It was a changing neighborhood of vacant factories transformed in artistıs lofts. None of this mattered to Etan Patz as he rolled out of bed and dressed for school. All that mattered on that fateful morning was his making his way to the bus stop, all by himself. He wanted this. He was a little guy who wanted to be a big guy and going off to the school bus stop all by himself was the kind of thing that made little boys feel like a man.

Carlie Brucia was not so unlike Etan Patz. She was a beautiful 11-year-old girl with a smile radiating warmth and a lifetime of love to share with those fortunate enough to know her. Is it unreasonable to expect our children to get from point A to point B without a hitch? Are we to keep them locked away in their homes to protect them from the predators that roam our streets? Is it really true that some 115 children a year turn up the same wrong alley as Carlie Brucia and meet the same horrible fate?

The experts flood the airwaves with advice on how to protect our children. Don't Talk To Strangers, they tell us and we, in turn, tell them, but children are bundles of innocence that we cart off to synagogues and churches so they can learn all about God and loving thy neighbor and right from wrong. We teach them to respect their elders and then some old guy, with a homicidal streak and a perversion that brings out the worst in all of us, is asking them for help and what's a child to do? He looks like Uncle Bill. You're my daddyıs friend?

Every year, our kids bring home a familiar package from school called the Ident-A-Kid kit. For about the price of a bargain CD our children get finger-printed and photographed, just like Joseph Smith, the father of three, who brutally murdered Carlie Brucia. Their information is fed into a computer and we get an identity card to carry around in our wallets. I don't know how many times I've looked at the card and thought, what good does this do me if the unthinkable happens? Did Carlie have an Ident-A-Kid card?

We applauded Congress for enacting the Amber Alert System and it is a good system. It has helped recover missing children. We shouldn't batter it when it fails, as it did so miserably in this particular case, but we shouldn't think it is enough to protect our youngsters. We shouldn't believe for a moment that if we had switched it on sooner, Carlie might still be with us. What we have to do is take it to the next level. We have to utilize the tools at our disposal to stop these stories from reaching down our throats and pulling our hearts right out of our chests.

In the 1980s, the Pentagon opened the door on public use of a 26-satellite system, more popularly known as GPS. The Government calls it Global Positioning Satellites. We can utilize this as a Growing Person's Safety network and we should call it the Brucia plan. Through the miracle of modern technology, a child in trouble should be able to send out and 911 signal that can be beamed back to the call center of the police agency in the jurisdiction from which it came. The signature signal would identify the sender and pinpoint the senders location.

Is this to far-fetched an idea? Could it have made a difference for Carlie? Is there a more deserving county than Sarasota, Florida in which to test such a plan? Etan Patz never made it to school that morning. In the 25 years that have past, no one knows what happened to him, or who did it, or what he did with the remains.

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If you would like to make a donation, please send to:
The Family of Carlie Brucia Foundation
Sarasota County Sheriff VIctim Service Center
5957 Cattleman Lane
Sarasota FL 34232