Allow me a little self indulgence today.
This blog post doesn't have a direct relation to autism,
but I do feel it is related to all children.
Thanks for the opportunity to help me sort
out some of my own feelings through the written word.
I find myself obsessing about this Penn State mess. So much so that my thoughts are spinning around in my head. I keep thinking about a blog post and I wonder why I think I need to write about it here, where the subject at hand is autism and special needs. I am so mad about this fiasco I can't get it out of my head. While I know everyone is disgusted and horrified, I seem to be a bit further over the top. I know that isn't unusual for me to be over the top, but injustice is something that doesn't sit well with me.
After a bit of time of self reflection today the pieces finally came together. Age has an amazing way of putting things into perspective doesn't it? I am going to assume most of those reading this know the background of the Penn State scandal. However, I do realize that I get many visitors to this site from the other side of the Atlantic so unfortunately I should link an article. HERE.
The boy that is referenced in the article is "about 10". The fact that my youngest is 11 is not lost on me. I keep picturing him as the child so brutally taken advantage of by a man he looks up to with awe. It obviously sickens me. The amount of people who buried this is astounding. Not just the coach, athletic director and university president, but what about the charity that was supposedly notified not once but twice? How many people there, kept sending kids out the door with Coach Sandusky? How many people just felt something was wrong but ignored those feelings? They obviously aren't as morally required to follow through as those who knew information first hand (especially who witnessed with their own eyes) but not enough people stand up for what they think or feel.
I have been thinking a lot these last few months about Zachary (11) as I send him off to school. You see, when I was in 6th grade and 11 years old myself, a tragedy that changed my life unfolded. My very dear friend Linda was kidnapped while she was on her safety post. Taken off the corner and thrown into a car. Never to be seen alive again. She was found later that day, dead, hands bound. I won't go into the details any further than this, but it rocked our quiet Christian town and I was smack dab in the middle of it. My mind today has gone back to the reports of people from a block away who saw Linda taken but were simply too far away to be of help. I felt for those people when I was a kid and I feel for them even more now that I'm an adult with children. They reacted, tried to chase a car, which they would never catch, in a morally reactive way because a wrong was being done. How can a man, young man or not, walk into that locker room and walk away? Did the child hear someone and become hopeful his rescuer had come only to hear descending footsteps? These are the things that haunt me. Did Linda hope that someone would catch her and save her from the horror that she couldn't believe was unfolding? That snowy day looms in my mind, as I sit here and the first snow falls from the sky, as if a sign that someone is thinking about me too.
Now having a child that age, it is bringing back these feelings. I have discussed them with him before, and given him instructions not to approach a car, no matter what the reason, no matter how innocent, only for him to say "but what if the person just wants to know the time?" It is hard for an innocent child to understand the horrors of our world sometimes. I, unfortunately, was not so lucky and was put in the middle of it. The years following that, I was questioned by reporters at anniversaries of the kidnapping, at festivals in our friend's honor, put on the Bozo The Clown show to promote the children's festival. I was a painfully shy child and this was very difficult for me. I understood the need, but the same question of "do you miss her?" from reporters made me fantasize about punching one of them in the face. I wanted to run away, but was constantly told I could do it. We were helping families and children by getting the word out after all....
I have always been a person who listens to my "gut". I follow it and it serves me well. If I have a bad feeling, there is a reason why. A few years ago I was in my house in the middle of the afternoon and walked outside because something felt wrong. I can't describe it. I looked around, couldn't find anything and walked back in. Only to be pulled once more outside by that hollow feeling inside. I then started walking up and down my street only to finally find an elderly lady 4 houses away that had fallen by her garage and couldn't move. That was an instinct that made me look. I was glad I followed it. How many people had an instinct about Coach Sandusky? How many more boys are out there with stories to tell about him?
How many people didn't listen to their gut? Not only listen, but then stand up and protect those that need to be protected. I see that in myself now. My need to protect kids, to be an advocate for them. To be the parent that points out when the system isn't working for their kid. To advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. I can now see where some of that came from in my life. As a child I watched an innocent girl taken from the world. I learned at a young age that we need to protect each other. I only wish that in a place called Happy Valley, someone else would have done it sooner.