Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Day the World Changed

It was the first day of summer vacation, 1983. Two little girls, aged 12, rode their bikes to a mall in one of the suburbs in Louisville called Bashford Manor. What happened after that has been a mystery for the past 25 years. The image of a 12 year old's bike, leaned up against the entrance to the Mall has been burned into the minds of every single person who lived here during that time. The face of a beautiful red haired little girl, with blue eyes and freckles was on television for an eternity. Her parents, with their halting Russian accents, begged for her safe return.

That face eventually was featured on milk cartons so that her features were known to many more outside of the Louisville area. The search turned cold, the face began to appear less often. In time only on the anniversary of her disappearance the story was resurrected and speculation once again was the subject of conversations.

I was stunned along with the rest of our community. My daughter was only two years old the beginning of that summer. I would look at her and understand the horror that the Gotlib family was feeling for their lost daughter, Ann. Abductions and kidnapping happened SOMEWHERE ELSE. Not here, not to us. Not to one of our children!

Could it be that abductions and murder of random children was not reported to us? Or was the plight of Ann Gotlieb the first national "mystery" that gripped our nation?

Because they had no leads, there was no ransom note, there was nothing...nothing! that it was thought she had run away. Her parents vehemently refused to believe that their 12 year old child had left her beloved bike behind. They refused to give up.

Last week, 25 years later, the police broke the news that they had a suspect. And that the suspect had died in 2002 after being released from prison on a medical release. His crime had been assault against a 13 year old girl, also in the Louisville area. They were confident now, with the addition of some new information. Actually some very old information that had never delivered to them but held in the silence for 25 years.

Finally the missing piece of the puzzle. Finally the missing girl, which had gripped Louisville for so long, was explained, if not found.

I double they will ever find her tiny 12 year old body after all these years. The monster that killed her has left this world to meet his fate with God. Maybe all his victims will be standing along side as his eternal judgement is handed down to him.

As for Ann Gotlib's parents? They were offered an apology from the police force and the detecives that were working on the case. Maybe if they had tried harder.....

When I heard the news Thursday night I cried for Ann Gotlib. I cried for her family and I cried for the world that had changed so quickly and without warning that first summer night in 1983.

13 comments:

sunflowerkat321 said...

I don't think that there is loving parent alive that wouldn't get thier stomach twisted in knots over this story. I know first hand how it feels to know that the authorities have "dropped the ball". I believe it happens far more frequently than we realize, yet we're supposed to believe in and trust "the system". My thoughts and my hear will be with Ann Gotlieb and her family today.

Chris said...

How awful. Kat is correct about what reading this does to any parent.

Paul said...

It's always difficult to write about about tragic events, but you did it very well. I was just reading this morning about a cold case around here just solved through DNA. Too late for 3 children, though.

Far Side of Fifty said...

It was a terrible time when the children started disappearing. We have two very sad disappearances that I have been following here in Minnesota for a number of years. I cannot even begin to imagine the parents pain and anguish. :(

pia said...

New York changed forever in May 79 when Etan Patz "went missing" as the saying goes

I know it sounds strange that one child could change an entire huge city and region but it did

The police did many stupid things also. Many parents thought the parents somehow guilty and I remember people I know not letting their children go to their daughter's birthday party

I guess that was a time for losing innocence

MariesImages said...

I lost my daughter in a store once, she was playing hide & seek....for just a few moments, I felt my world had ended. This was about 25 years ago. She will be 27 on Sunday.
What a sad reminder of how cruel this world can be.

Jane said...

I lived in Louisville when Anne Gotlieb disappeared. Her death has haunted me all these years. I went to that mall all the time. That's the first abduction I had ever heard of in town. Don't you think that's it's just a little too convenient that on the 25th anniversary of her death they solve her murder? No DNA, no confession, no nothing? But it looks good in the newspaper, doesn't it? Mystery solved. I don't really believe it.

deeds said...

Ann's little face has bothered me for 27 years now . I just turned 13 years old in 1983 and lived in the projects off of beuchel bank road , I still have family living in buechel terrace..right down the road from bashford mannor , With all the perverts I had encountered in my life she was an innocent tiny girl in my mind and I hated to imagine what they was doing to her..
I always tried to think that it was the time of tribulation and God took her.

deeds said...

Sorry , I posted prematurely...

At any rate , it is Christmas day and little Ann Gotlieb has gone to a far better place than where she left..She is celebrating Jesus's birthday today..

Jeff said...

Thanks so much for posting such a tangible reminder of my fears as a parent. I was born and raised in Louisville and remember vividly Ann's story. I was the same age and by and large, ran the streets at that age. I noticed at the time that my parents became more strict, I wrote it off as they being "smothering". Now, as the parent of a nine year old, I left Louisville in '87 to join the Marine Corps which I still serve and as we've lived all over the world and as my son gets older, I find that my panic and anxiety grow anytime he's not in direct sight. If I loose sight in a Wal Mart, I panic and he know's that he can't leave direct sight of the house when playing with friends and we live in one of the safest and closest knit developments here in SoCal. We've rehearsed over and over again different situations so that he might be prepared if approached by a stranger however I still get sick in my heart that this is what we've become as a society. Our kids can't and never will again experience the sense of innocence that we did as kids and to me that's tragic. And it's all at the hands of these F'ing losers!! We're letting them control us! Any predatory crimes against children should automatically be met with the death sentence, no questions asked. History has shown that there in no "cure" and the recidivism rate is so high, we simply can't take the chance anymore. It's just a sad statement.

Angi said...

This appears to be a very old thread, but with the whole Caylee Anthony story, I have been spending some time looking back into the past. I was very young when Ann Gotlieb disappeared and lived 2 hours away in Bowling Green, KY. My aunt lived in Louisville, though, and we came to visit sometimes. I have never forgotten it because it made me much more aware of my surroundings and put the fear in a lot of children. I credit her story for opening a lot of eyes, both those of parents and of children. This, along with the movie Without a Trace and the Adam Walsh story, probably saved a lot of lives, whether anyone was actually aware of it or not. May her death not have been in vain.

Anonymous said...

I know this is getting even older now... i was 2 years younger than Ann when she disappeared. I remember all the bill boards. the news. I promised to myself then, that I would never forget her. Never knew her, was too young to understand. But as time went by, and In my child mind, nothing was being done. Its a promise i made to me. I have kept it, and never told anyone.

I lost sight of my son at sea world for 15 minutes.... I too had thought my world had ended! I cant imagine what these parents have had to go through.... An entire lifetime of questions..
I will still never forget Ann

Anonymous said...

I was 12 when Ann went missing. I lived across the river in Indiana and remember seeing her picture on the news. I've never forgotten her. The arrest of the guy of the Etan Patz case reminded me of Ann all over again. I hope her family knows Ann hasn't been forgotten. Amazing how vividly I remember the weeks after she went missing. Still haunts me to this day. I'm sure she's been resting in peace.