How old were you when Adam Walsh was abducted and murdered? Were you even alive then (it was 1981)? I was. I was 11 when he was abducted. I remember my mom making me watch the TV miniseries about Adam Walsh when I was 13. It was horrifying to me. At the time I watched the movie I had a sister who was 6 (the same age as the murdered boy) and a brand new baby brother.
For those who are unfamiliar with the case, Adam Walsh was a 6 year old boy in Florida. He was abducted outside of a Sears store in 1981. His mother had left him in front of a the Sears brand Atari video game console while she stepped a couple of aisles away to shop. The kidnapping happened in a matter of just a few short minutes. Later his head was found but never the rest of his body. Until today, the murder was officially unsolved. Today, Florida police closed the case by officially announcing Ottis Toole as the murderer. Toole died in 1996, in prison, where he was serving 5 life sentences for murder unrelated to Adam’s case.
As a child, the story scared me and made me appreciate my mother’s overprotective nature. It also helped me be much more careful when tasked with watching my younger siblings than I might otherwise have been.
The story had an impact on my mother as well. She never let me go into a video arcade without being supervised. In fact, in seventh grade, I won $20 worth of tokens to a local video arcade from my school for helping out with PTA. When I moved from the Atlanta area to Rome going into 9th grade, I think I still had $19 worth of those coupons left. The Adam Walsh incident bothered my mom so much that she did not want me to go in the arcade very often.
Just so you do not think my mom went off the deep end because of a boy who was abducted hundreds of miles from our home, I should point out that around the same time that Adam Walsh was abducted, the Atlanta Child Murders were happening. Growing up in the metro Atlanta area, I vividly remember the Atlanta Child Murders. Some of the bodies were found near where I lived. I remember hearing the names of roads on the radio telling where bodies were found. These were names of roads I was familiar with. It was not until I was much older that I realized the “Atlanta Child Murders” were really Atlanta Black and Mostly Boy Murders. Race and sex were unimportant to me and were never discussed as a differentiating factor around my home. I just knew I was a child in Atlanta, lived near Memorial Drive, and my friends and I were frightened of it. I sure some of the Atlanta Child Murder hysteria played into my mom’s caution.
I do my very best to balance the fear I have of something awful happening to my children with not totally overreacting and protecting my children from everything in life. As the schools have taught them about stranger danger, we have done our best to explain it without totally freaking them out. The schools have actually freaked them out far more than we have so in that area at least we are reaching our goal.
As an adult, I cannot imagine the agony that his parents suffered. Also, I have so much admiration for John and Reve Walsh. In 1999 or 2000, I attended a conference where John Walsh spoke. His speech was moving. He took what is the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent and turned it into something positive.
Positive does not even begin to describe what he has done. He turned his son’s tragic and horrifying death into a legacy to help prevent others from going through what he went through with education. He invented the use of the “Missing” posters that are used each time someone goes missing in this country. “Missing” posters inspired using the same missing photos and information on milk cartons, in Wal-Marts, on unsolicited mail. He revolutionized the way police handle child abductions. If memory serves me correctly, he went on Good Morning America or the Today Show immediately after being notified that the police thought his son’s head had been found, to still ask for help in solving the crime. His example taught parents how to use the media to help find their missing children. His pursuit of justice helped start the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Schools are more secure today because of John Walsh’s activism. On the 25th anniversary of his son’s murder, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which categorizes sex offenders and established a national database of sex offenders, was signed into law. He has assisted countless families in attaining justice through his television show, America’s Most Wanted.
John Walsh is strength and leadership personified. Occasionally, right before falling asleep at night, I ask my husband how John Walsh and his wife have been able to do what they have done. Then I thank God that John and Reve Walsh were able to turn something so horrific into something so profound.
Tonight, I will be thanking God not only for the Walsh’s strength and leadership example but also that John and Reve Walsh can go to sleep this night knowing that their son’s case was finally solved and the book is closed on it.
Update 1: Several people have found this post searching for “Adam Walsh Sibling.” According to what I have read, John and Reve Walsh have 3 surviving children, Meghan, Callahan and Hayden, who were born after Adam’s death.
Update 2: John Walsh’s strength, perseverance, and leadership work for me and I decided to make this my Works for Me Wednesday post this week. I hope his example might inspire others. To see more Works for Me Wednesday posts, check out the official site. For those who are visiting from WFMW, since Christmas is only a few days away, if you would like to read about Christmas traditions in our home, you may enjoy these links:
- Make Your House Smell Like Christmas
- Extreme Christmas Lights, Part 1
- Christmas Crossword Puzzle for Kids
- Top Christmas Memories of 2007
- Santa Doesn’t Have to Pay for It
- What My Twins Have Taught Me About Selecting Toys
- Christmas Eve Dessert