I wrote this way back in 2006 on another blog and am posting it here because I find it just as relevant now as I did then. The thing is, I don’t know HOW to go about trying to change things.
Salt Lake City, Utah. Two fair-haired girls, both abducted from their homes. One named Elizabeth Smart, the other named Destiny Norton. Elizabeth Smart was taken from her bedroom on June 4, 2002 by a man armed with a knife. Destiny Norton was lured off of her porch by a neighbor. From here, the stories go off in two very different directions.
As soon as Elizabeth’s sister reported to her Mom and Dad that she had seen Elizabeth be abducted, the media got involved. Elizabeth’s father Ed went on television and asked the kidnapper to return his daughter. Using the technology of the internet and the media, the search for fourteen year old Elizabeth Smart moved into high gear. Up to 2000 volunteers a day were dispatched to the area surrounding her home trying to find any trace of the missing girl. Word spread quickly as an impromptu coalition of websites facilitated the distribution of information about Elizabeth Smart with pre-formatted flyers that could be downloaded for printing or immediately circulated online by email or Internet fax. Night after night, talk shows such as CNN’s Larry King Live featured numerous commentators with one opinion or another regarding the kidnapping. Elizabeth Smart was thankfully found alive on March 12, 2003, 9 months after she was abducted.
Five year old Destiny Norton had just taken a bath on July 16, 2006 when she asked to be allowed to go out in the back yard. The yard has a chain-link fence and gate. She vanished in the five or 10 minutes before her father went to check on her. Hundreds of people had helped in daily searches for Destiny, including 700 on Saturday. A $30,000 reward was offered for information leading to Destiny’s recovery. Destiny’s body was found in her neighbor’s basement on July 25, 2006.
Besides the outcomes of the cases, I can’t help but notice the way the media handled the girls’ abductions, and wonder if the handling of the two cases contributed to the outcomes. The day after Elizabeth Smart was abducted, CNN.Com featured an article about it on the opening page of their website and included her picture and a heart-felt plea from her family members asking for the kidnappers to return her. CNN.Com reported on Destiny Norton only after her body was found, and even then only under the heading titled “more law news”.
Elizabeth Smart’s family lived in an affluent neighborhood. Their house was on the market for 1.19 million dollars. The Norton household included several people who were not biologically related, but referred to themselves as family. The Norton’s and their extended family were considered hippies and had, by their own admission, been “hassled” by police for panhandling.
Forgive me if the above seems rambling, but as I sit here, I am taken back by the undeniable fact that in our society, there are people, even children, who are considered throw-away or expendable. I learned this first-hand when I worked at an Early Intervention Center, a developmental preschool for children with special needs. The Center lost funding after being in operation for many years. These parents were told that they would not have a place to send their child with down’s syndrome, or CP, where they would receive physical, speech, and/or occupational therapy, and that they would not only have to pay for services for their child but that they would have to FIND services. No Child Left Behind, unless they have special needs, or are brown, or are poor. I’m concerned, as the mother of 2 boys and as a human being , that the exceptions to that rule will continue to broaden. No Child Left Behind, unless they have brown hair, or are left-handed. It sounds silly, but are we close to that? Do our children have to fit a certain criteria to be considered important?