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He went to school and did not return: how the disappearance of a six-year-old boy became a tragedy for the whole of America


Source: Home

Eaton Patz, a six-year-old New Yorker, went to school from his home on May 25, 1979. He never returned home. What happened to him will be a tragedy for the country and will forever change the way America searches for missing children. Writes about it "Home".

Photo: Shutterstock

Many years later, in 2012, an unremarkable merchant, Pedro Hernandez, then 51 years old, admitted to luring a little boy to the market and promised to treat him to sweet soda water. The merchant strangled the child, hid his body in a bag and took it to the landfill.

One block

This child's name is Eaton Patz. Mom sent him to school on her own that day. There was only a block before the school building, it was possible to run it in a minute. No one knows and will never know why the boy listened to a stranger and went with him. Mom didn't know for a while that her child never made it to school. She was sure that he was in the class and studying. And when her son did not return at the usual time, like any parent, she became worried, but decided that he was playing with his peers. A few hours later, my mother was seized by real fear.

After the Eton tragedy, American schools introduced a rule: parents must be notified that the child did not come to class. Perhaps, if this rule had been in effect when the boy disappeared, his mother would have found out about his disappearance early in the morning and with the help of the police, questioning passers-by and neighbors, he could be found ...

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Everyone in the area knew the family with the cheerful and sweet Eaton. The news that the child had disappeared instantly flew around the neighborhood. In the evening all the neighbors and familiar families were already looking for him. The child's father, a photographer, spent the whole night printing his photographs, and his mother glued them around.

"A blond boy with blue eyes, in a black cap, blue corduroy jacket, blue trousers and sneakers with stripes, with a blue rag backpack with a little elephant," - this is how the parents described Eaton.

A day later, they knew about the search for the child throughout Manhattan. Eaton's portrait began to be printed on cardboard milk cartons. This milk was transported all over the States and soon the whole country knew about what had happened, including President Ronald Reagan. He issued a statement calling it a shame that the country does not know where its children are going.

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Thirty three years

Eaton's mom and dad have been waiting for their baby for thirty-three years. They did not move, they kept the same phone numbers, the same places of work, hoping that their son would return. They were shocked to the core by the merchant's confession of what he had done to the child.

The trials lasted for months. Pedro Hernandez was given a life sentence without parole. No one has ever figured out his motives. The press called Hernandez a maniac. It is easy to calculate that at the time of the murder the offender was only 18 years old ...

Only after finally realizing that their son would never come home again, in 2019, Eaton's parents moved to Hawaii, where their eldest son and grandchildren live.

The Eaton tragedy changed the way children are sought in America. After his disappearance, a system for finding children appeared in the United States, part of which is the printing of their photos on cardboard packages with milk. And if before no one cared about the missing children, now the whole country quickly learns about it.

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