Monthly Archives: April 2012

Little Boy Lost: Why Etan Patz Still Matters Today

Etan Patz, a 6 1/2 year-old NYC boy, left his apartment one morning in 1979 and was never seen again.

The news broke Thursday the 19th. New York police started searching the basement of an apartment that could have the buried body of Etan Patz: a 6 ½ year-old boy missing since 1979. The building was located on Prince St, the same street as the Patz family’s apartment. People who never knew the story behind this asked “Who is Etan Patz?” Those of us who have been around since it all happened either know the story all too well or felt the effects of it over time.

Friday May 25, 1979 started like any other day in the United States. By day’s end, there would be two events that would change things forever: the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 just outside of Chicago and the abduction of New York City child Etan Patz. The plane crash would be the deadliest air disaster in US history (outside the 9/11 attacks) for claiming 273 lives and would lead to changes in airline maintenance and would be the beginning of the end of the DC-10 aircraft. The abduction of Etan Patz would soon pave the way for stronger measures and procedures for dealing with missing children and would lead to many of the tougher laws and better, more immediate procedures that exist today.

Before Etan Patz, child abductions were not taken that seriously. Most were either thought of as runaways or kids that would eventually find their way home. Kidnapped children were originally thought of as only happening to children of rich parents where the abductor would demand ransom money for the child’s release. Even before Etan’s disappearance, an ugly truth of child abductions that was already happening was about to unravel. It all started that Friday morning. Etan Kalil Patz was a six-and-a-half year-old boy living in lower Manhattan, the middle child of Stanley and Julie Patz. Etan had always walked with his mother to the school bus stop but for months, he was begging to go alone because all of his friends were. He was given that landmark day that Friday. He woke up, got dressed, had breakfast, waved goodbye to his mother and then walk down the Prince St. apartment stairs to the bus stop two blocks away, alone for the first time. He was never seen again.

Immediately upon news of his disappearance, the police and media were in a rush. Stories abounded. His face was even shown on the nightly news. Stanley and Julie Patz soon became media figures. Etan’s story would become the hottest child kidnapping story since the Lindbergh Baby. Never before was the press and the police so immediate over a child kidnapping. Nevertheless stories would arise how some child kidnappings in the years before Etan, and some in the years after Etan, were not so lucky to receive prompt action from authorities or the press. The lack of resources and coordination between law enforcement and other government agencies left many parents of missing children frustrated. Even Julie Patz made mention in an interview two years after Etan’s disappearance that there were many children’s’ bodies in morgues being left unidentified.

Soon more news about child abductions came to the surface. There was the 1981 abduction of Florida six year-old Adam Walsh who’s severed head was found two weeks later. There were Oklahoma 13 year-olds Charlotte Kinsey and Cinda Pallett assigned to do a carnival job overnight in 1981 and never heard from. There was 12 year-old Iowa boy John Gosch who left home for his paper route in 1982 and was never seen again. Further names came about: 12 year-old Ann Gotlib from Kentucky, 14 year-old Elizabeth Ann Miller from Colorado, 16 year-old Maurice Jefferson from Florida, 9 year-old Taj Narbonne from Massachusetts, the list is endless. Better actions had to be done.

The subject of missing children soon became unavoidable. Each state had their own missing child cases to deal with. It even hit internationally in Canada and other countries. Over time, the subject of missing children would soon be a hot topic and better laws were enacted both in states and nationwide. In 1983, May 25th–the date of Etan’s disappearance–would be declared National Missing Children’s Day. The faces and descriptions of missing children would soon appear on milk cartons. Etan was the first. The FBI and various state police departments passed tougher laws and adopted better faster actions towards dealing with missing children. The National Center for Missing And Exploited Children was formed by the American Congress in 1984. Posters of missing children appeared at bus stations, border crossings and police stations. Local police would visit schools and teach children of the danger of strangers. Some would even give fingerprinting. Child identification programs that included fingerprinting and child identification files started up nationwide. Finally a problem that had been long ignored got its long overdue improvements and changes in procedures.

One thing about is his disappearance is that it sure has changed childhood and sure has changed parenting. With it came the loss of the essence of childhood. Parents were confronted with the fact they could no longer afford to give their children the carefree childhood they felt they deserved. They felt the need to hold on to their children tighter. Many newspaper writers have written editorials about how Etan Patz’s abduction changed everything. Before his abduction, monsters were seen by children as something of their imagination. Since the Patz abduction, today’s children know monsters exist in real life. Parenting has also changed. It makes it a lot harder for a parent to let go of their child, knowing that so many children go missing. You can guarantee that ever since Etan went missing, a child will have to wait longer than 6 ½ to walk alone to the school bus. A dark truth could no longer be avoided right there and then and remains unignorable today, especially with pedophiles now able to use the internet to lure kids.

PRIME SUSPECT: Jose Ramos

You can guarantee that in the years since Etan’s abduction, missing children has been taken seriously and continues to be taken seriously today Authorities are quick to act whenever a child goes missing. Awareness is immediate. Punishments are severe for the abductors. On the downside, it became apparent in the 90’s that potential abductors knew of the stricter measures and tougher precautions that were made against them. That caused many to find new and sneakier ways to abduct children, like the 1993 abduction of 13 year-old Polly Klaas at knifepoint in her own home and 9 year-old Amber Hagerman being yanked off her bike and immediately taken into a car. Those abductions and the finding of their bodies would lead to the creation of the Polly Klaas Foundation, Marc Klaas to lobby for tougher sentences for convicted felons, and the institution of the Amber Alert which alerts people through buses and on radio stations about sudden missing cases. There’s even a recent statistic out that today 99% of abducted children are found alive. Despite all these improvements and changes, it’s all too much too late for many missing children of years and even decades past, like Etan Patz.

Etan Patz was never found dead or alive. The case has never been closed, although there is a prime suspect. His name is Jose Antonio Ramos. In the late 1980’s, he started serving a 20-year prison sentence in Pennsylvania for sexually abusing a boy. In 1991 it was alerted to Stuart GraBois–Assistant United States Attorney who received the Patz case in 1985–from jailhouse informants that Ramos admitted involvement in the disappearance of Etan. Ramos was the boyfriend of Etan’s babysitter at the time of Etan’s disappearance. The Patz family had known for years that he may be involved but it wasn’t until then they were able to get any legal action. Further confessions led the Patz family to confront the fact in 1999 that Etan was dead. In 2001, Stanley and Julie Patz had Etan legally declared dead. In 2004, they won a wrongful death suit against Ramos for which they were to be awarded $2 million. One thing that could not be done is place a murder charge on Ramos. The District Attorney at the time, Robert Morgenthau, said a criminal indictment could not be sought because the body of Etan has never been found. Ramos is scheduled to be released from prison in November 2012. The Patzes fear he will continue to be a threat to children until he is unable to walk. Ever since he learned of Ramos’ confessions, Stan Patz sends Ramos a copy of Etan’s missing poster on Etan’s birthday and the anniversary of his abduction. On the backs, Stan has typed the question: “What have you done to my little boy?”

Potential Second Suspect: Othniel Miller

Despite the strong evidence against Ramos and the subsequent legal actions, the case continues to be unclosed. The fact that no body has been found has prevented a lot of justice from being done and the decades-old mystery from being solved. In May 25, 2010, the Etan Patz case was reopened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Since then, a second suspect has come to the attention: Othniel Miller. At the time of the Patz disappearance, Miller was a handyman who owned a workshop in a building near the apartment the Patzes resided in. His workshop doubled as a play room for small children. Recent revelations have come to light in recent years: one is from his ex-wife that he raped her 10 year-old niece; another is the fact that a fresh concrete floor was poured in his workshop the year after Etan’s Disappearance; another is Jose Ramos did odd jobs for Miller in the past.

Miller is now 75 and has suffered many strokes. He was very cooperative in talking with FBI agents for the past 30 years but denies any involvement with the Patz case. Then a cadaver dog was allowed to sniff in the basement and alerted a clue. There was the potential that Etan could be buried underneath the floor of concrete. Nevertheless cadaver dogs are known to be erroneous and can easily be distracted if they sniff out something as simple as a dinner. Despite the slim odds, Stanley Patz was content with the search as he believed something is better than nothing. The search began on Thursday the 19th. Concrete was excavated, cut, crushed and even analyzed for any possible forensic detail. There was a stain on the wall that came to the alert as a possible bloodstain. However the search for Etan in that apartment concluded on Sunday. There was not enough evidence. That small stain wouldn’t be enough to prove anything according to the NYPD because it’s quite possible it wasn’t a bloodstain at all. There was no body found underneath the basement floor. Even that claim against Miller is under question as his stepson claims he never raped his 10 year-old niece and would never hurt a child. For the record, Miller was never charged for it. Nevertheless the Etan Patz case remains opened. A mystery like this deserves to be solved.

Whether Etan Patz will ever be found or whether case will ever be closed or not is still a big question. There may be new evidence and new investigations anytime in the future. Nevertheless the recent search reminded the public of the importance of this case. It was the missing child case that led to the major changes and tougher procedures in policing and justice that exist today. It was also the case that made parents and children wake up to the potential dangers. It all started that Friday morning in Manhattan 33 years ago. Hard to believe the child whose case started it all has never been found.

UPDATE: For May 25th update, Click Here.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Disappearance Of Etan Patz. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disappearance_of_Etan_Patz>

“Etan Patz: Search Ending With No Evidence Of 6 Year-Old Boy.” ABC News.go.com. 2012. ABC News. 23 April 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/US/etan-patz-search-ending-evidence-year-boy/story?id=16192599

For Further Reading:

Writer’s Editorial s from Yahoo:

http://news.yahoo.com/etan-patz-changed-generation-213000800.html

http://news.yahoo.com/nyc-boy-vanished-era-anxiety-born-181742158.html

Movie Review: Titanic 3D

Who here hasn’t seen Titanic? When it opened near the end of 1997, it broke practically every movie record in the book, became a huge pop culture phenomenon and remained that highest grossing movie ever until James Cameron’s follow-up Avatar was released. Now it’s out in 3D. The big question is how does Titanic fare as a 3D movie?

NOTE: Just to let you know, this is not a basic movie review. This is a review of the movie’s addition of 3D. I’ll give you a brief summary of the movie itself by saying it was an excellent movie but it was more about being an epic than about having excellent acting and scriptwriting. Sure, Gloria Stuart had the best performance of the movie and Kate Winslet was excellent, but most of the acting was the best the actors could do with cardboard characters. The script had a few cheesy lines too–“This is bad.” and “I’ll be down here waiting for you.”–but we should forget that the script isn’t the whole point of an epic movie. As for the Oscars, I feel Best Picture should’ve gone to L.A. Confidential that year. Titanic had some good moments too. The best qualities were the cinematography, the score from James Horner and especially the visual effects. James Cameron created an epic masterpiece. It’s no wonder this movie smashed every box office record in the book and remained unbroken until Avatar broke them all.

So there you have my brief review of Titanic. Now for my review of Titanic 3D. Often I consider 3D releases of movies more of a case of a cash grab than in terms of quality. Most of the time when I go to a 3D release of a movie, I expect the 3D to justify itself. Some of them like Coraline, Avatar, Toy Story 3 and Hugo worked. Some of them like Up, Iron Man 2 and John Carter didn’t. I will have to say that there were many parts in Titanic where the 3D did not work, like the drama and the dialogue. Even the parts of the ship’s sinking didn’t have anything added with the 3D effect. One thing I will note is that Titanic was not designed to be a 3D movie. 3D movies weren’t taken into as serious consideration as they have been in the last four years. I’m sure if Titanic was meant to be seen in 3D, James Cameron would do a lot of direction changes and ordered different cinematography angles.

The 3D worked best during scenes which put the audience in the character’s place. Some of the best scenes included where Jack is welcomed to the first-class dinner, or when the two are dancing in the third-class section. The best I felt was the scene where Rose and Jack are at the stern of the boat getting the feel of flying. That scene of riding the waves was one of the best 3D parts of the movie. The other area where 3D worked best was the disaster scenes from within the ship. Scenes of sudden bursts of water in the engine chamber and throughout the third class deck were other areas where the 3D worked best.

One thing about the re-release of Titanic in 3D is that it reminds you just how right it is to do a re-release of Titanic anytime. 3D or no 3D, Titanic is a movie meant to be seen on the big screen. Seeing it on your television via DVD or Netflix and especially seeing it on your cellphone doesn’t do it justice. If you’ve seen Titanic in the past, you would know for yourself that Titanic is a movie meant for the big screen. Not just visual but the addition of the surround sound adds to it too. The big screen is the best way, if not really the only way, to experience it. I’m glad they re-released it. If you loved Titanic when you first saw it and saw it again, the re-release will remind you why you fell in love with it. There were even times when I left the theatre thinking that if Titanic were to be made today, who would play Jack and Rose? Ah, Leo and Kate can’t be replaced but if it was done today, my best bets would be Jamie Bell and Keira Knightley. Gloria Stuart couldn’t be replaced either but I’d assume elder Rose would be played by Lauren Bacall. Okay, I’ll save it!

It’s a wonder why they picked April 4th for the 3D re-release since April has so many 100th anniversary commemorations that month. They could have released it on April 10th–the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s ill-fated departure– or April 15th: the 100th Anniversary of the RMS Titanic’s doomsday. The only 100 Anniversary April 4th commemorates is the completion of the Titanic’s trial run. Not much to commemorate, eh? As for me, I find it ironic I saw it on Sunday April 15th: the exact 100th anniversary of the sinking.

There’s no question that Titanic’s re-release in 3D is another cash grab as is any other big movie in the past that’s been re-released in 3D. Nevertheless it is worth seeing as it reminds you why it’s so right to see it on the big screen, 3D or no 3D. The addition of 3D doesn’t add much but it’s still worth seeing again even to re-live the experience.

The Titanic And Its Lessons

Can you believe it has been 100 years since the R.M.S. Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage, and met its doomsday? Even after all these years, the Titanic still fascinates people. There can be many reasons why it still does: its first-class settings, its huge shape, its cloud as being ‘unsinkable’ or even how it fascinates shipwreck aficionados. Nevertheless the Titanic taught people a lot of lessons. Here are the top lessons it taught me:

The First Is Sometimes The Last

From what I heard recently, the Titanic was never called ‘unsinkable’ and that title was only given after its sinking. Actually it was listed as ‘designed to be unsinkable’. If it really was unsinkable, it wouldn’t need any lifeboats, right? Nevertheless even without the title, it’s still hard to believe that such a colossal and legendary ship could sink on its maiden voyage. There have been other ships that have sunk on their maiden voyage but none as legendary as the Titanic.

Disaster Risks Don’t Fade Overnight

It was in the dead of night–exactly 11:40pm the evening of April 14, 1912–when the Titanic hit the iceberg and was doomed. There was nothing for night vision at the time. There’s also some stories that many rescue operations didn’t pick up mayday signals because service was not functioning at the time. They couldn’t have been wronger on that day.

It Wasn’t Just Women And Children First

Interesting how a ship’s survivor/fatality statistics can tell a lot. Yes, the term “women and children first” did happen on the Titanic but there was more to tell. Class also told a lot. There was only one fatality amongst the thirty children in both first and second-class. Third-class children were not so lucky as 52 of the 79 children in third-class–roughly two out of three–perished. Third-class was also unlucky for the women as 89 of the 165 women in third-class died while only 17 of the 237 women in both first and second-class and only three of the 23 women amongst the ship’s crew died. Men were the least lucky as only 318 of the ship’s 1670 men–not even 20%–survived. Class once again played a part in this as 1/3 of the men in first-class were saved while only 91 of the 630 men in second and third-class survived. Even crewmen were unlucky as 693 of the ship’s 865 crewmen died. If you want the flat class statistics of the passengers: 202 of the 325 in first-class survived, 167 of the 285 in second-class died, as did 528 of the 706 in third-class. Remember that line in Titanic uttered by Rose’s fiancé when Rose says half the people are going to die and he responds: “Not the better half.” It is true that the ‘better half’ were luckier.

Even The Rich Weren’t Immortal

I may have mentioned that those in first and second-class were the luckiest of the lucky on board but it didn’t mean they were completely lucky. Shortly after the movie was released I heard a sermon at a church where the pastor made mention to three of the fatalities who possessed hundreds of millions of dollars in wealth. I’m sure if you read books on the Titanic, you’d be surprised how many wealthy privileged people were lost that night. John Jacob Astor, the richest person on the Ship, didn’t make it that night. It’s a good reminder since our present society values wealth and celebrity more than anything else.  Surprising how some  of the wealthiest of ‘the better half’ were amongst the unlucky.

Corporate Ambition Played A Role Too

Corporation hating may be quite a phenomenon in the 21st Century but we shouldn’t forget that even a century ago, big businesses also competed and had their own casualties. As for the Titanic, it was the cream of the crop of the White Star Line’s ship line and they were hoping this ship would crush its main rival in the shipping business, the Cunard Line. Cunard’s competitive edge was speed while Withe Star’s edge was luxury. It purchased three luxury liners–the Titanic, the Brittanic and the Olympic–to beat out Cunard. By 1917, the Olympic was the only one that was still sailing and still profitable. Starting in 1927, White Star itself was purchased from shipping company to shipping company and would eventually merge with Cunard which was going through its own depression-era financial difficulties. White Star still exists as part of Carnival Corporation & PLC and have their corporate office in Liverpool. Modern Cunard ships use the term ‘White Star Service’ to describe their top-notch customer care.

Today passenger airlines have almost completely replaced Transatlantic travel but there is still one Transatlantic ocean liner left. The Queen Mary 2 is the one remaining ocean liner that offers boat trips from Southampton to New York and it owned by the Cunard Line. And yes, you get the luxurious White Star Service there.

It Takes A Major Disaster For Changes To Happen

It was only after the Titanic that better safety measures came into place. Because of the Titanic’s sinking, it was implemented that more lifeboats be on ships and that more lifeboat drills be properly carried out. Also implemented was that wireless equipment on board be manned around the clock. Started up after the Titanic was an International Ice Patrol to monitor the presence of icebergs in the North Atlantic. International harmonizing of maritime safety regulations as well as a treaty for maritime safety also started up after the Titanic’s demise. Other shipwrecks in later years would also provide changes to maritime safety. Sad how it takes a tragedy of such magnitude to make changes for the better.

There Have Been Shipwrecks With Bigger Fatality Numbers

Over 1500 fatailities definitely sounds like a huge number but it’s actually listed in Wikipedia as the fifth-worst peacetime maritime disaster ever. There have been four–one before the Titanic and three since–that have had bigger fatality numbers:

  • In 1865, the SS Sultana carrying almost 2400 along the Mississippi River exploded and caught fire just outside of Memphis. An official death toll counts 1547 fatalities.
  • In 1948, the SS Kiangya was sailing the Huangpu River just outside of Shanghai when it hit a mine and exploded. The death toll varies from 2750 to 3920.
  • In 1987, the Filipino ferry MV Dona Paz was crossing the Tablas Strait when it collided with a freight ship carrying thousands of barrels of petroleum products, igniting an explosion that sank both ships. Fatality estimates range from 1565 to 4400.
  • In 2002, the Senegalese ferry MV Le Joola was overfilled to double-capacity causing it to capsize in a rough Atlantic Ocean outside of Gambia. An estimated 1800 people lost their lives.

So that’s what I’ve learned from the Titanic over the years. It is surprising how a big ship that sinks on its maiden voyage can fascinate so many people even today. It’s also surprising how its tragic fate can also tell so much and create a lot of changes. It also reminds you that a disaster of such magnitude can even happen while you’re on vacation. We even saw this year when the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia ran agound, capsized and sunk halfway. The Titanic’s sinking is definitely something to think about all these hundred years later. I know it has me thinking every time I’ve viewed film footage on Youtube of the Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912 and the passengers waving. Did they know?

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: RMS Titanic. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Titanic

WIKIPEDIA: White Star Line. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Star_Line>

WIKIPEDIA: List Of Maritime Disasters By Death Toll. Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_accidents_and_disasters_by_death_toll#Maritime>

NHL Playoff Madness: Here We Go Again

Okay, many of you may remember my Canucks articles from last year. The reason for it was obvious: our third and possibly best chance to win the Stanley Cup. For those of you who want to read them again or have never read them, here are my articles: Confessions Of A Canucklehead, My Stanley Cup Experience, Stanley Cup Game Seven preview and aftermath.

Last year we won the Presidents Trophy. This year we do it again. It wasn’t entirely expected at first because October, the first month of regular season started on a down note with five wins, five losses and one overtime. Many Vancouverites were uncertain if we’d do it again but I reassured many that if the Lions can lose their first five games and then go on to win the Grey Cup, the Canucks still have a chance. The months became better over time as the Canucks would bag more wins and move up higher in the ranks to the point they appeared poised to repeat as Presidents Trophy winners.

However it would be a tight April 7th as the Canucks were one of four possible teams to win the Trophy and it took a final game that night. Their toughest rival for the Trophy, the New York Rangers, lost their final game. A win from the St. Louis Blues wasn’t enough to supersede the Canucks in the League standings. A win from the Pittsburgh Penguins meant that an overtime at the least would be what the Canucks would need at the least. It wasn’t like last year where the Canucks had a comfortable lead over the second-place team in the NHL by six wins. Nevertheless the Canucks won against Edmonton 3-0 and they repeated as Trophy winners. I remember the game well as I saw it at my cousin’s place. It was a fun time. It wasn’t just hockey action but the dogfights too. My cousin has two dogs–one that looks like Lassie and a puppy that looks like Toto–and they fought alot duing the games. The fights were even more entertaining than the actual hockey fights!

The funny thing is that even after the Canucks won, it wasn’t all over. There was still one last NHL game being played at the time: Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks. It was an important one too as the Kings and Sharks were both #7 and #8 in the Western Conference and a loss from either team would make them #8 and thus the Canucks’ first Stanley Cup Playoff rival. The game went into overtime and ended with an overtime goal from the Sharks. The Kings are the Canucks’ first rival en route to the Stanley Cup.

Now it’s Playoffs time. It all starts April 11th and Vancouver will face Los Angeles. Vancouver has won two of the four regular season games against LA with one of their losses being an overtime. Vancouver has consistently played better against the Kings at home which is an advantage for this contest.

Anyways the sixteen Playoff berths have been decided and the match-ups are set. The whole playoff action begins on April 11th. Lots of fanfare and celebrations to be held. One thing’s for sure that I will not buy a ticket for a Finals game again if the Canucks do happen to make it. The amount I payed for a fourth-class seat at the game was ridiculous and I won’t do that again.

So enjoy the playoff action. There may be sixteen cities celebrating now but by June, there will only be one city still smiling. Let’s hope it’s Vancouver this time.