May 8, 2009
It was almost 10 o''clock last Wednesday night. I had sent my 5-year-old daughter to bed, with instructions to pick out a bedtime story.
This particular night, I selfishly hoped she would doze off before I made it up the stairs.
It had been a long day.
I got to work at 7ish, left at after 5, picked Kyla up from school soon after and prepped dinner, which I really hoped would be done before Bible class at 7. No such luck.
So I put in a call to my sister in Hoover, Ala., to ask on what temperature I should leave the chicken, since it now was at least halfway cooked.
She had more important things to discuss: My nieces, ages 13 and 11, at about 4 p.m. had come face-to-face with a child predator.
They and four friends were walking what would equate to a couple blocks to CVS Pharmacy.
As they were leaving, a man was parked in a green Honda, near their apartment''s playground. He asked if they wanted a ride; they declined.
On the way home, most of the girls stopped to walk a friend to her apartment door; my oldest niece headed around the corner to her own apartment.
The green Honda was still at the playground.
The Hispanic man inside maneuvered the car in front of her and exposed himself.
She screamed and ran; the other girls followed suit. After reporting the incident to the police, my sister found out at least one other incident had been reported with the same car and same description for the suspect.
He had physically tried to abduct a girl -- a high school freshman -- just after the incident with my nieces.
I was appalled something like this would happen, in broad daylight.
"I couldn''t process it; I had to have them repeat it because I couldn''t believe what they were saying," my sister, Givonne, said.
After the shock wore off, she wanted find him, get his license plate number and get a good look at him. I could relate. I felt like driving to Alabama myself and hunting down the degenerate.
But my nieces, I''m sure, were more traumatized than the two of us.
"I''m OK," the 13-year-old said, not very convincingly.
I tried to be encouraging; I''m pretty sure I failed miserably. What do you say?
"I''m sorry you were confronted by a sick pervert, sweetheart."
I had to switch gears: Chicken. Bible class.
We decided I would leave the chicken breasts in the oven on 200 degrees, while Kyla and I headed to Gregory Road Church of Christ.
It was a good class, and, as usual, educational.
But the thought of my niece being exposed to such a sicko plagued me.
News Monday a similar situation happened here in Columbus was enough to disturb me even more.
Police still are investigating the case of a man who exposed himself to a child last Friday afternoon.
The girl got off the school bus and saw a white male sitting in a blue 2003 Hyundai Accent with Alabama tags.
The man told the child he had something he wanted to show her and beckoned her to the car. When she approached, he exposed himself to her.
Columbus police have apprehended a suspect based on the car''s license plate but have yet to verify whether or not he''s the culprit.
I had berated my sister for letting my nieces walk, even in a large group, to the store alone.
But this girl was getting off of a school bus, headed home.
Kyla will start kindergarten in the fall, and I shudder to think of the possibility of something like this happening to her.
My instincts say shield her from the ways of the world, quit my job and home school her even.
But there must be some median ground between hunkering down in a bomb shelter and being completely vulnerable to these kinds of deviants.
Garthia Elena Burnett is news editor of The Dispatch. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
wiseup commented at 5/8/2009 3:15:00 PM:
Could someone please give Garthia some grammar lessons. This is the news editor of our local paper? Did anyone proof-read this? Afirmative action at its best.
Saddened commented at 5/11/2009 10:37:00 AM:
This same thing happened to me living as a child in Columbus. We lived in a wonderful neighborhood full of children and fantastic neighbors. However...it was same situation. As I headed home from the bus stop I was confronted by a man who wanted to "ask me directions". This happened for years as we would call cops, they would arrest the guy, and then he would be released a year later. By the second and third time I knew what was coming and would run to random houses and knock on doors if I saw his car. I almost hate to wonder if this is the same guy, though my experiences with him ended more than 15 years ago. My parents explained to me that the man had mental problems and luckily I am more scared now as an adult than I was as a child at that time. Something has to be done to keep men like this from being released back out to do the same thing to other children.
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