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Front Page » June 20, 2002 » Opinion » That feeling of safety could be false
Published 4,857 days ago

That feeling of safety could be false

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When the tragic disappearance of a San Diego girl from her suburban home flooded the headlines back in February we were horrified. Many concluded that because it was far away, in a big southern California city where terrible tragedies often happen, that it was somehow different.

Then in early June we read about the Idaho Falls teenager that was abducted from her south Idaho home and escaped only to take police back to the place where they ultimately chased and shot the criminal. That was getting a little too close to home for many of us.

And then, later that week we were horrified when a quiet, innocent, and loyal child disappeared at gun point from her affluent neighborhood home in Salt Lake City. It has been over two weeks and although there has been much speculation, authorities and the family still have no substantial clues on who may have been responsible for the abduction.

Terror has swept through the state and volunteer search crews are still gathering daily to look for the 14-year-old. Flyers showing a picture of Elizabeth began circulating the morning after the abduction throughout the state and one could see them hanging everywhere in Emery and Carbon counties.

It's a startling reminder of how sick and troubled some people are and that many of these people are closer than we think.

Having raised two sons and taught and mentored hundreds of children in classrooms and organizations, I can't imagine something like this happening to my family or friends. Yet I have lived and worked in small communities all of my life and these things do happen in areas where small towns and rural landscapes exist. Often people live in these areas primarily because they feel they are safe and supposedly removed from the crime one comes to expect in larger cities.

These horrible acts are startling reminders that bad things can and do happen anywhere and we don't have to live in a high crime area to see examples such as the one that has struck the Smart family in Salt Lake.

I don't want to go through life paranoid, always looking over my shoulder or contemplating disaster or tragedy. But I am reminded one more time by this incident that I should be cautious and realize there are steps that can be taken to protect ourselves and our families.

Be mindful that we are never totally safe and even if we take all the preventative measures in the world, we never know when something like this can strike.

Here are some thoughts, tips and suggestions to help get you started on planning and discussing what can happen with your families and friends. Communication and dialogue are important.

I think a big red flag in today's world has to do with the internet and chat rooms. More and more teenagers are talking to more and more strangers every day. We, as families, need to talk to our kids about this and remind them that anyone can make up a location, or an age, or things that interest them. No matter what your age is, no one should ever agree to meet a stranger anywhere at any time. It's like picking up a hitchhiker in a bad part of town, only worse.

I think we all should look at the other people in our lives or neighborhoods. The number of uncles, boyfriends, brothers or neighbors that abuse children is staggering. People need to pull their heads out of the sand and be aware of the warning signs. Too many of the individuals we might know are potentially a danger to our children. Our children often trust these people. If you are uneasy about someone, anyone, talk to your children about the dangers.

I think we should look at our homes and make sure they are safe and secure. Again, its hard to know what to do but their are tips and suggestions available from local law enforcement officers on how to make each home a little better protected from intruders.

Although I personally like people and am normally a very trusting person. I have also learned to recognize a sixth sense along the way and to follow my intuition. We usually know when someone or something appears to be a "red flag" and when it pops up learn to listen to that warning.

For example, I never pick up hitch hikers, I never agree to give a stranger a ride and if I see a suspicious vehicle or person near a playground I always call the authorities. I try to be aware, perceptive and cognisant of things that are going on around me.

Talk about situations and scenarios with your children and family. Have a plan already drawn out. It is much like preparing for a fire in case one should strike. We never expect it but the planning sure comes in handy if we need it.

It's sad when we have to resort to living under fear or caution.

But it is even sadder when tragedy strikes and little ones are hurt or taken. "Being prepared" is always a good motto.

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June 20, 2002
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