Overheard on CNN.com: Face on milk carton chipped away at our innocence
Etan Patz was 6 years old when he disappeared on May 25, 1979, on his way to a bus stop in New York City.
April 19th, 2012
06:48 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Face on milk carton chipped away at our innocence

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

A 6-year-old boy named Etan Patz disappeared in 1979 on his way to a bus stop in New York City. He became the face on the milk carton, symbolizing growing awareness of missing children. As police and federal investigators once again search for the boy's remains, many of our readers are mourning a certain loss of societal innocence. Several said the ongoing search is worth doing.

Search related to 1979 Etan Patz case under way in New York City

That face haunts this reader to present day.

Michael Burch: "I remember this little boy's face and name on milk cartoons. I was about his age, 5 at the time. Wouldn't you want your child's remains to be finally laid to rest after almost 33 years? I know I would check up every lead possible. Not a waste of time!"

One person was curious why a boy would be on his own.

lm517: "How are more people not weirded out by the fact that a 6-year-old was expected to find his own way home from an NYC bus stop? When they talk about the mom calling the school and all of his friends, it sounds as if they are talking about a missing teenager. I still hate that they went through this, but still, questionable parenting."

This reader talked about leaving the house alone, just as Patz did in 1979.

Angry Deuce: "Look, it's obvious many of you were born later and did not grow up back then but believe me, a 6-year-old kid getting himself to and from school, even on public transportation, was not unusual back in those days. I walked almost 2 miles each way to school when I was just a couple years older than him. Everyone did. Please understand, it was a completely different world. We didn't hear about child abductions every other day on the 24 hour news channels. We didn't have Amber Alerts or Child Predator databases or D.A.R.E. or any of the stuff you guys grew up with. There was no America's Most Wanted. ... Adam Walsh wasn't even killed until a few years after this, which is when child predators and such really became a part of our collective consciousness. Children were, for the most part, able to move about freely, even as kids. I got on my bike and rode all over town when I was Etan's age, as did all the other kids. We didn't need an adult chaperone to go to the playground a few blocks away, even when we were 6 years old. I wish you guys could have grown up in those days, away from all the violence and worry that surrounds our children today. You'll never truly understand how much different things were in those days. ..."

Several chimed in with agreement.

OxfordVoter: "Very well said! It was a fabulous time to be a kid. We left the house on a summer morning and didn't come back until we needed a jar for lightning bugs! The very phrase 'play date' makes me sad for today's kids."

inne1970: "I was born in 1970. We rode our bikes across town (town of 100,000) without a care in the world. In the summers we woke up, played outside and came in when the street lights came on. No XBox, cell phones, Internet. ... Different times back then, better times."

AthensGuy: "Those were the gold old days. We could play outside, unsupervised. Even most of the neighborhood streets were not that busy. And no video games. Being a child today sucks; it is a dangerous world."

Lurgy: "Yep. Thrown out of the house in the morning and not let back in till dinner time. Glorious days."

When Etan Patz went missing, life changed for some readers.

photogrrl: "I remember when Etan Patz disappeared; I was 9 or 10. After that happened, our parents stopped letting us walk to school unsupervised. I hope the family finally gets closure."

SoCalReader: "photogrrl, I remember it as a young mother of two little boys, both younger than Etan, and my sons never walked anywhere without an adult because of this case. It shaped our lives as well."

Some of the commenters were parents at the time, and they'll never forget.

celh: "This is one of those cases that people hear of that haunt them forever. I think because so many of us had little children at the time. And it was the first real shock of seeing it play out on TV. This little boy just stepped around a corner and was gone forever. We all thought about that, deep in our souls and we couldn't imagine a bigger horror. Where was he, who had him, what happened? Why did no one see what happened? For years our imaginations have had to fill in the gaps and some of it is unthinkable. And not knowing must be torture for the parents. I hope there is resolution for them. I can't imagine them having lived this long not knowing. I think I would still be holding my breath, unable to fully breathe. Just horrendous having a child just vanish."

Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Crime • History • Missing Children • Overheard on CNN.com
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. High Hopes

    He would be 40 years old with children
    of his own; but in our hearts and minds
    he remains to be a child in crisis and his
    family have not given up their dream of
    finding him. In light of this and the recent
    murder in Texas, we are in awe of the power
    of love and the resiliency of the human spirit
    to overcome our own personal tragedies
    and applaud these mothers… knowing that
    we'd do the same.

    God, bless their efforts,
    Hope

    April 20, 2012 at 12:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. TORI ©

    Why has it taken the NYPD so long to begin this search in earnest!

    April 20, 2012 at 1:32 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • I Remember

      This isn't the first time a tip has led to a search for Etan. Every few years they get more and more tips which they act upon.

      April 21, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Silver Fang

      Because they've been too busy assaulting Occupy Wall Street protesters and confiscating high school students' cell phones. Our tax dollars at work.

      May 24, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. High Hopes

    They're acting.on a tip. Recovery is as
    important as an arrest. To the families,
    anyway. How many times have we heard
    them say, "we just want him/her back"?
    Justice, usually follows.

    ~Bless

    April 20, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. I Remember

    I was only 9 years old when Etan went missing. My bus stop was a block away on Spring Street and Etan lived a block from me at the time. I will never forget that day in May because my life was forever changed as was my neighborhood and every parent. On May 24th we played outside without a care in the world. We laughed and played while we waited for our school buses to come. We felt so safe in a neighborhood where every one watched out for each others families and children. We were just kids being kids. But on May 25th that all changed in the blink of an eye. I may have been 9 years old but even I felt the drastic change. Something was wrong and life would never be the same in my neighborhood. It was on that day that we learned a word that wasn't in most of our vocabularies at the time, EVIL. I remember seeing Etan's parents and the pain they were in and the look of pure torture and emptiness on their faces and I knew from that day on there was a dark side to this world and we were all forever changed. I just hope that they finally get the peace and closure they deserve.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Keith Feltman

    I wish this didn't happen to this child its seem to me this kind of thing happens on a eveyday basic isn't safe anymore any where you lived.I was born in 1955 so in the 60's growing up as a kid you didn't have to worry about somebody taken you & killing you for a example on holloween we went beyound our own neighborhood & we felt safe in any neighborhood.I found out last Friday that the day before my granddaughter was getting of the school bus & someone was trying to her to get into the car if something would have happen to her i would have been very upset her parents & my grand child talked to the police till 9pm last Thursday my granddaughter gave the police a discription of the car.
    I hope this family get some closure so they can put this terrible event behind them there alway going to missed there little boy to go this long has to gut wrenching.
    Thanks Cnn For Letting Me Commett.

    April 21, 2012 at 1:43 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. sadlyperturbed

    Not only do I remember this on milk cartons, I remembered his name. I grew up in the 60's and early 70's. Life was carefree until this little boy disappeared. Suddenly our world changed, and it has never gone back to "normal". All I heard after this happened was how my parents didn't want the same thing to happen to me. Before this, we could play all over the neighborhood and not worry about anything but being found in hide and go seek. After, we couldn't go anywhere alone.....ever. I always have hope that this child survived and is living somewhere today with no knowledge of what happened and no memory of what he lost.

    April 21, 2012 at 2:46 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. The Great White North

    After 33 years, I hope that they do find out what happened to Etan, even if its bad news. My stupid neighbor actually
    thinks that, just because this kid disappeared in '79, the police shouldn't bother investigating it after all this time!

    April 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Debby

    To insinuate that the parents did something wrong by allowing the boy to walk two blocks by himself is just being cruel, insensitive and ignorant. As the previous posts noted – things were different then.

    April 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Tahir

    This is a biggest tragedy one can ever have. May God give peace to his parents.

    April 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Liberty Spinner

    We knew kids disappeared but not on their way to and from school at mid-day. I moved from a big city to a smaller university city with my children, for safety's sake. They'd sometimes get "lost" on their way home reappearing magically at supper time. If they got "lost" at a record store some clerk would ask them if them if they wanted to phone their mother. Which they dutifully did. In 1979 people watched out for other peoples children.

    April 22, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Horrible

    I can't imagine my kid, disappearing like that- thought of it is unthinkable. Who in the he.... kind of people would do something like this, I know the answer, enough people to make happen over and over. However, i have to wonder exactly what they are trying to accomplish by doing all this besides, hyping this up for attention and profits of selling newspapers. I think local community, reaction to people that would do such a thing is the real, answer I know if it was my kid, I hope I wouldn't be beaten down to the point of waiting for system to work, id be out there myself,

    April 22, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. J Miller

    I just wanted to point out that Etan walking to the school bus was the FIRST time he had ever done that. I can't recall why the parents didn't walk with him on that particular day, but it was their habit to do so. It is similar to the day Jaycee Dugard was taken, which happened to be the only time her mom was running late and did not walk her to the bus stop. It makes me sad to read posts where people insinuate bad parenting and blame the parents for the child's disappearance. Just like many people are posting, back then it was a different time and a safer place. Many kids walked to school or their bus stops alone for great distances. It wasn't given a second thought. What Etan's disappearance really did change was to change our collective consciousness about abduction resulting in a permanant change of parental supervision/behavior.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Silver Fang

      I walked alone to my bus stop when I was 13 and 14 in the early 1990s and I survived. Kids do get taken, but it's actually very rare.

      May 24, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. cindy

    Growing up in the 60's, I had a lot of freedom. During the long days of summer I was out and about; checking in with Mom at designated times, but all over town with my friends, and at times by myself, until the "street lights came on". I especially loved hanging out along the river road at the edge of town that had been a stop for "hobos" a generation before. I allowed some of the same freedoms with my daughter in the 90's in a state capital city and was even threatened by one parent with "child neglect". In many ways, she was better prepared than the "protected" kids because she new the stories and was taught the dangers and how to act in situations involving strangers as she faced reality daily. Today she is a vibrant, independent college student.

    April 23, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply

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