Etan Patz‘s killer was finally convicted yesterday. The 6-year-old boy went missing on May 25, 1979, after he left home to catch the school bus. The bus stop was just two blocks from the family’s apartment in Lower Manhattan.
Patz was the first child to have his picture published on the side of a milk carton in a campaign designed to raise awareness about missing kids. The campaign, coupled with Patz’s tragic disappearance, helped launch the missing children movement.
The milk carton campaign, which began in 1984, was a cultural touchstone for Generation X. There was nothing quite like sitting at the breakfast table every morning before school and reading about a missing kid on the side of the milk carton. It was a cold dose of reality every day. Although I was in high school when the campaign started, it still impacted me. I hated walking home from school by myself…
In an article published in The Atlantic today, they called the logic of the campaign remarkable in retrospect:
This logic is remarkable in retrospect, now that information can be instantly published and shared on a global scale. To distribute information nationwide, just 30 years ago, people were using milk cartons. The World Wide Web was still nearly a decade away from entering the public domain.”
Here is a clipping from a local paper that covered the story in the days following Etan’s disappearance.
RIP Etan Patz.