Between 1979 and 1981 a series of high-profile missing-children cases became national headlines. Three such cases contributed to the shock of the nation’s consciousness bringing attention to the seriousness of child victimization and forever changing the response by law-enforcement agencies to reports of missing children.
On May 25, 1979, Etan Patz disappeared from a New York City street on his way to school. Even before cases of missing children routinely garnered national media attention, Etan’s case quickly received a lot of coverage. His father, a professional photographer, disseminated black-and-white photographs of Etan in an effort to find him. The massive search and media attention that followed focused the nation’s attention on the problem of child abduction and lack of plans to address it.
For almost three years national media attention was focused on Atlanta, Georgia, where the bodies of young boys and girls were discovered in lakes, marshes, and ponds along roadside trails. By the time a suspect was arrested and identified in 1981, 29 bodies were recovered. The suspect was apprehended, convicted, and now serves a life sentence in prison.
On July 27, 1981, 6-year-old Adam Walsh disappeared from a Florida shopping mall. His parents, John and Revé Walsh, immediately turned to law-enforcement agencies to help find their son. To their disappointment, there was no coordinated effort among law enforcement to search for Adam on a state or national level, and no organization to help them in their desperation.
The tragedies of these children and others exposed a fundamental flaw. There was no coordinated effort between federal, state, and local law enforcement; no national response system in place; and no central resource to help searching families. When it came to handling missing-children cases, the United States was a nation of 50 states often acting like 50 separate countries.
The momentum that began with the disappearance of Etan, Adam, and the 29 missing and murdered children of Atlanta led to photographs of missing children on milk cartons and, ultimately, a nationwide movement. In 1983 President Ronald Regan proclaimed May 25 National Missing Children’s Day. Each administration since has honored this annual reminder to the nation to renew efforts to reunite missing children with their families and make child protection a national priority. National Missing Children’s Day is a reminder to all parents and guardians of the need for high-quality photographs of their children for use in case of an emergency, and for the need for everyone to pay close attention to the posters and photographs of missing children.
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Viki Wallace debuts her song "Have You Seen This Child" at the National Museum of Patriotism Atlanta, GA
Pat Stansbury, Communications Director, Viki Wallace, and National Museum of Patriotism founder Nick Snider
Lee Greenwood, singer/songwriter
Kenny Gamble, co-founder of Philadelphia International Records
Ms. Patti LaBelle, needs no introduction
"Big blue eyes and a button nose
Chubby cheeks and a face that glows
Have you seen this child?
He was here a minute ago.
If you see him, tell him that we love him so, Tell him that we love him so".
Years ago a businessman approached me about writing a song for a missing children's campaign. At the time the faces of the abducted kids could be found on milk cartons, asking the question "Have You Seen This Child". I thought that would be a brilliant title so when writing the lyrics I tried to describe how unique and special each child is. Hopefully thru this campaign we can focus on finding our missing children and keeping them all safe.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is The Nation's Resource Center for Child Protection
Since 1984, the NCMEC has assisted law-enforcement with more than 160,000 missing-child cases, resulting in the recovery of more than 145,000 children.
The AMBER Alert Program, named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, and transportation agencies to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. Broadcasters use the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to air a description of the abducted child and suspected abductor.
The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of the child. Since 1997, the AMBER Alert program has been credited with the safe recovery of 492 children. To date there is a network of 120 AMBER Plans across the country.
In April, 2009 I had the honor of being invited to debut "Have You Seen This Child" at the opening of the National Museum of Patriotism in Atlanta, GA.
I had the pleasure of singing for Lee Greenwood, (God Bless the USA), Patti LaBelle and Kenny Gamble. They were the recipients of Patriotism Awards. The event was made even more special for me by having these pictures as wonderful memories.
Recent Amber Alert Success Story
November 14, 2009
An AMBER Alert was issued for an 8-month-old boy who was abducted from his home by his biological father. The suspect had an active warrant for child endangerment and also had a civil protection order against him to protect the mother and child. The abductor saw the AMBER Alert on television, phoned the mother of the child and turned himself in to authorities. The child was safely rescued and returned to his mother. The suspect was charged with abduction and violation of protection order.
National Missing Children's Day - May 25
Special thank you to photographer David Verdini