When I heard the news that Etan Patz’s killer had confessed to the police, my heart sank. One would imagine there might be relief that this 33-year-old case, which changed laws and altered the way many of us would come to mother our children, could finally be considered solved. And yet.
Yet my heart plummeted at the thought that the tiniest shred of hope that somehow, somewhere, Etan remained alive, is now extinguished.
Etan’s parents, sister and brother have suffered unimaginable sorrow. I can’t fathom what this development does to a mother the day before the anniversary of her cherished 6-year-old’s disappearance. Just a month ago she and the rest of her family had to suffer through another media siege when the basement of a building near their Soho home was excavated. Police thought that Etan’s remains might have been interred there by his murderer.
While the current suspect, Pedro Hernandez, has reportedly admitted to having committed this profoundly abhorrent crime, the case is not over.
We are now just a few days from Shavuot, as we were the day 6-year-old Etan disappeared from the street in lower Manhattan as he walked to the school bus for the very first time. Shavuot commemorates the day the Jewish people were given the Torah by God, and marks a turning point in the Exodus narrative that begins with Passover.
This year, in particular, Etan and his family will be in my Shavuot prayers. I will pray that Hernandez’s confession proves to be a turning point and that God grants them the redemption of a conclusion, whatever form it can possibly take when it is your sweet child who is snatched from the sidewalk on a fine spring day, and never again comes home.
Debra Nussbaum Cohen is an award-winning journalist who covers philanthropy, religion, gender and other contemporary issues. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and New York magazine, among many other publications. She authored the book “Celebrating Your New Jewish Daughter: Creating Jewish Ways to Welcome Baby Girls into the Covenant.”
Etan Patz and the End of Hope