The brief hunt, 5 minutes at the most, is seared in my memory nearly 14 years later. It was minutes of terror, followed by gratitude, extreme relief and shame.
It’s also why the logic behind last Tuesday’s infamous Casey Anthony verdict escapes me.
My 17-year-old was closing in on age 3 when my mother got the bright idea to hold a yard sale. [That’s another source of terror, but it’s a column for another day.] Not long into the affair, the yard was overrun with people picking over clothing, previously read books, mismatched mugs and other discarded items and haggling for the best price.
In the hubbub, my 3-year-old disappeared.
Words can’t describe the moment you discover your child’s gone. Your pulse races as your heart moves toward your throat. Racing around, shouting her name, I scoured the yard praying she was nearby. But she wasn’t. The toys she’d been playing with moments earlier were scattered near my father’s chair, but no sign of the child. A quick search of the garage and back yard turned up nothing. Combing the block, she wasn’t there.
Two passes through the house and I still couldn’t find my youngster.
I was frantic. The search team grew, others nearby heard my yelling and joined the hunt.
When I was certain my heart would break, I found my toddler nestled under a cover, curled up with my English Springer spaniel, both asleep, completely oblivious to the panic the adults in her life had just endured.
The experience is a daily reminder of how quickly things happen when children are involved … how easy it is to become distracted and the unthinkable to sneak up on you. I’m guessing even the best parents experience moments that make their hearts stop in an instant.
So, all these years later, I simply can’t imagine myself in a situation where I’m partying, enjoying friends’ company and carrying on as if all is right in my world if I don’t know where my child is. A casual survey of those around me, even young adults without children of their own, indicates the same.
But that’s where Casey Anthony found herself when her 2-year-old, Caylee Marie, disappeared. Spinning a web of lies, the 20-something mom led police, the Anthony family and searchers on a pointless hunt for Caylee. The child’s discarded body would turn up months later, discarded in a plastic trash bag just blocks from her home.
A jury acquitted Anthony of all murder charges last week to the dismay of many. She will soon be free to walk among us, to profit and even to procreate again. Justice, it appears, eluded Casey Anthony … for now. Her ultimate judgment day is still to come.
Meanwhile, I urge you to join me in signing an online petition, www.change.org/petitions/create-caylees-law. Some 13 states have expressed plans to introduce similar measures, dubbed “Caylee’s Law.” If adopted the measure would make it a felony for caretakers to not notify authorities of the disappearance of a child within 24 hours. Anything less is reprehensible.
Today, our prayers are for the Caylee Marie’s of the world. The children who’ve been dealt a tough hand, who’ve been born to those unfit to parent. Like Caylee, you deserve better. God bless and protect you, all.