It is a parent’s worst nightmare…a child goes missing. Walking home from school, riding a bike from a neighbor’s home, sitting in a parked car while the parent runs a quick errand or in the case of 6 year old Adam Walsh, disappearing in the mall. Over 2000 children are abducted every day in this country & a parent’s soul is ripped to shreds. There are no words more terrifying in the human vocabulary, no matter what language, than the equivalent of “my child is missing”.
In 1981 John Walsh uttered those words and one family’s trauma sent ripple effects throughout society. The story was splashed across headlines. America’s gut wrenched when it was learned that 2 weeks after being reported missing from a mall in Hollywood, FL, little Adam’s head, severed from his body, had been recovered from a canal. Twenty-seven years later the child’s body has still never been located.
For well over two decades the culprit in the Walsh family nightmare remained a mystery. Today, came the news at last that the murder has been solved. A longtime suspect in the case, one who had confessed, then recanted, then confessed and recanted again, was officially identified as the killer.
While the “who” of this case has now been officially solved, the “Why” of it all may never be known. How does anyone explain the kind of pathology that renders someone capable of such a heinous act? What drove Ottis Toole, and thousands of others like him, to take the lives of innocent children?
Clearly, there are no easy answers and Adam’s parents will forever suffer the pain from losing a child in such a tragic manner. Despite the pain, the Walsh family’s “healing process” has affected all of America. It was because of this beautiful little boy with big brown eyes & a freckled nose that thousands of other missing & exploited children’s faces have found their way onto milk cartons & posters & mailers & police databases all across America.
With impassioned advocacy born from agonizing loss, Adam’s father John Walsh mobilized this nation on behalf of missing children everywhere. From the halls of public schools to the chambers of Congress, measures were implemented that galvanized a country to protect it’s children & to find those who went missing. Who hasn’t seen at least one episode or heard of “America’s Most Wanted”? This television program launched by activism and driven by love brought the reality of a parent’s worst nightmare into millions of living rooms and into our hearts.
I have the deepest respect for John Walsh’s crusade to keep America’s eyes open to the plight of missing & exploited children. With the Walsh family today I breathe a long awaited sigh of relief that the murder of Adam Walsh has been solved.
Rest in peace Adam.