It’s no coincidence that National Missing Children Day is observed May 25. The date marks the disappearance of Etan Patz, the young boy who vanished 33 years ago and is now the subject of an intense search by the FBI and local authorities in New York.
FBI agents this week dug up the basement of a home in Manhattan’s SoHo district in search of his remains. Etan, with his flowing hair and soulful eyes, captured the public’s imagination, and his disappearance in 1979 changed the way the nation handles cases of missing children.
The boy’s photograph appeared on posters, and the “image of this little boy is absolutely haunting. It became an iconic image,” said Ernie Allen, president and chief executive of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “Etan was the first missing child poster.”
President Ronald Reagan invoked Etan in 1983 when he signed a proclamation declaring May 25 as Missing Children Day.
“The date of May 25 has particular significance in the cause of missing children,” Reagan said. “On that day in 1979, 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from his home in New York City. Unfortunately, Etan has never been found. His brave parents have fought to increase our awareness of this tragedy and to improve the agencies that work to solve this unique type of crime.”