Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
America longs to help those struggling with poverty and freedom, and yet time and again, we have shown just how little we care about these people we long to help. I logged into MSN Messenger this afternoon as I have some time between classes, and ocassionally, a friend of mine will be on. While none of my friends were on, MSN Today had an interesting headline that immediately caught my attention. Granted, the photo they included on Today was not all that impressive, but the headline beneath it astonished me: "Missing Teen Found--Spent 11 days in NYC subways."
Missing children has become something I look for in the news recently perhaps because of my impending motherhood. So, I figured I'd check out the article and celebrate the return on this boy to his family. What I ended up reading was not about the joyful return of a boy that had run away from home or been kidnapped. Rather, the entire article focused on the fact that this child that police oh-so-carefully searched for went unnoticed for 11 days under their very noses--and their feet.
In spite of surveilance cameras in the subway stations and photos of this boy posted all over, no one noticed him. This 13-year-old boy suffers from Asperger's syndrome and had fled to the subways when released from school after getting in trouble at school and fearing punishment. Asperger's syndrome is a form of autism that allows the person to be high functioning but can ocassionally manifest itself in specific ways. This boy had problems with situations that require a verbal or social response.
After the mother informed the police of her missing child, they contacted the school and leafleted the city. However, no one assumed to follow the procedure of possible runaway cases by checking train and subway stations. I watch a lot of Law & Order: SVU, and I know that when a child disappears, every situation is considered including runaway. Especially if the child has a disease that might cause social awkwardness like this child and is a teenager.
How, then, could a 13-year-old boy go unnoticed in a society that prides itself on longing to care for others? The mother may be here illegally--and I honestly don't agree that illegal immigrants should receive the same benefits as citizens and visa holders--but there are laws that say this child's case should have been given the same amount of priority as a citizen's missing child. Why is it that the police left so many holes then? Who was checking the surveilance cameras of the subway stations that his red hoodie went unnoticed (the article states the missing boy was wearing his red hoodie the day of his disappearance)? Why did police not follow procedure and check the subway stations? How is it that only one person saw the boy's photo then went up to the child and asked if he was the missing boy?
It's time to rethink our society. Are we truly as caring as we claim to be?
Link to the article: NYC boy missing for 11 days lived in subways